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The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience [Kindle Edition]

Kent A. Kiehl Phd
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $26.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

A compelling journey into the science and behavior of psychopaths, written by the leading scientist in the field of criminal psychopathy.

We know of psychopaths from chilling headlines and stories in the news and movies—from Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, to Hannibal Lecter and Dexter Morgan. As Dr. Kent Kiehl shows, psychopaths can be identified by a checklist of symptoms that includes pathological lying; lack of empathy, guilt, and remorse; grandiose sense of self-worth; manipulation; and failure to accept one’s actions. But why do psychopaths behave the way they do? Is it the result of their environment— how they were raised—or is there a genetic compo­nent to their lack of conscience?

This is the question Kiehl, a protégé of famed psychopath researcher Dr. Robert Hare, was deter­mined to answer as he began his career twenty years ago. To aid in his quest to unravel the psy­chopathic mind, Kiehl created the first mobile functional MRI scanner to study psychopaths in prison populations. The brains of more than five hundred psychopaths and three thousand other offenders have been scanned by Kiehl’s labora­tory—the world’s largest forensic neuroscience repository of its kind. Over the course of The Psy­chopath Whisperer, we follow the scientific bread crumbs that Kiehl uncovered to show that the key brain structures that correspond with emotional engagement and reactions are diminished in psy­chopaths, offering new clues to how to predict and treat the disorder.

In The Psychopath Whisperer, Kiehl describes in fascinating detail his years working with psy­chopaths and studying their thought processes— from the remorseless serial killers he meets with behind bars to children whose behavior and per­sonality traits exhibit the early warning signs of psychopathy.

Less than 1 percent of the general population meets the criteria for psychopathy. But psycho­paths account for a vastly outsized proportion of violent crimes. And as Kiehl shows, many who aren’t psychopaths exhibit some of the behaviors and traits associated with the condition. What do you do if you discover your roommate, or boss, or the person you are dating has traits that define a psy­chopath? And what does having a diminished limbic region of the brain mean for how the legal system approaches crimes committed by psychopaths?

A compelling narrative of cutting-edge science, The Psychopath Whisperer will open your eyes on a fascinating but little understood world, with startling implications for society, the law, and our personal lives.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews


"A renowned neuroscientist provides us with a fascinating account of his personal journey into the mind of the psychopath." –Robert D. Hare, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia, author of Without Conscience
“A lucid and closely observed portrait of what psychopaths are actually like, with their chilling combination of moral apathy and charm, by one of the leading researchers and innovators in the field.  A Fascinating and terrifying book, and a potential life saver.” –John Seabrook, The New Yorker
“A must read! Dr. Kiehl’s stories about psychopaths are as authentic as can be. I found Dr. Kiehl’s research formed the backbone of my work in analyzing the behavioral signature of a psychopath left behind at the crime scene.  Whether you work in mental health, law enforcement, the judiciary or research, don’t trust your gut about this disorder– learn about it from one of the foremost experts in the field.” –Mary Ellen O’Toole, Special Agent (retired), Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
"Highly engaging and personal perspective from a world leading scientist in the field of psychopathy research. What sets this book apart is the combination of an accessible overview of the cutting edge science and compelling and authentic portrayal of what individuals with psychopathy are really like." - Essi Viding, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, University College London
"By primates standards, humans are intensely social, affiliative, and empathic.   Thus, we are fascinated with the rare individuals who lack those traits, who have a reptilian indifference to what makes humans humane.  Criminal psychopaths are the iconic example of such terrifyingly broken humans.  In this superb book written by one of the pioneers in this field, Kent Kiehl explores what is different about the brains of psychopaths.  This is a clear, accessible account of the science and, in addition, an appealing personal story of how Kiehl has gone about his unique science." –Robert Sapolsky, Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University
“An exhilarating exploration into the lives, minds and emotions of criminal psychopaths by one of the leading researchers in the field. This lively and engaging narrative not only educates the reader on the internal machinations of the psychopath, but also takes us through Kiehl’s own life journey of scientific discovery. It’s an irresistible read that is hard to put down.  Even after decades of my own research I found myself learning new perspectives on the psychopath. Serious, witty, saddening and beguiling, The Psychopath Whisperer yells out as a “must read” for anyone interested in those without conscience.” –Adrian Raine, Professor of Criminology, Psychiatry, and Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
“The fascinating story of how Kent Kiehl, a remarkably energetic and accomplished scientist, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a mobile brain scanner to examine the brains of more psychopathic prisoners than anyone in the world and characterize their dysfunction. Filled with entertaining anecdotes of psychopaths in prison, research collaborations, and scientific discovery, the book discusses the ramifications of his finding to the criminal system and to the treatment of psychopathic juvenile delinquents. An eye-opening read!” - Dr. Joseph Newman, Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison

About the Author

KENT A. KIEHL, PhD, is an executive science offi­cer of the nonprofit Mind Research Network and a professor of psychology, neurosciences, and law at the University of New Mexico. In addition to authoring more than 130 articles in peer-reviewed publications, Kiehl has writ­ten for Scientific American, has appeared on NPR, and was profiled by John Seabrook in The New Yorker. He currently directs five major NIH-funded projects in psychopathy and related mental illnesses. He lectures extensively to state and federal judges, lawyers, cor­rectional officials, and lay audiences about the inter­section of neuroscience and the law.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A combination of memoir and primer on psychopaths, The Psychopath Whisperer manages to communicate a lot of information on its subject relatively painlessly. The information is related alongside the story of Kiehl's entry into the field of psychopath study, from his days as a graduate student working in Canadian prisons to his first major trial as a professional. Alongside Kiehl's career, we see the application of MRIs in this study advance.

This book should be interesting to those with a desire to learn more about how psychopaths tick - how they are identified and distinguished, what is known or believed about how they evolve. It offers insight into how psychopaths think about themselves. Science, it delivers.

What it does not deliver is any techniques for "whispering" to psychopaths. "Whispering" is the soft science of establishing rapport generally with animals, like horses. Kiehl has worked alongside psychopaths and has gleaned some excellent information for them, but he doesn't even approach rapport or try to teach others how to do so. To me, this is a plus. The path to helping psychopaths and protecting society from them seems almost certainly destined to come from outside.

Although I personally could have done with a little less biography and a little more science, I suspect the blend was a good one to keep this book engaging to readers of broad background. I enjoyed the book, which was consistently engaging, and will recommend.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I feel like I should start with a spoiler alert, because this book reads like a mystery story. The clues are released a few at a time. Do psychopaths have a consistent, measurable brain abnormality? Why yes! They do. Our hero proves it by spending years, in fact his whole career, taking MRI scans of prisoners and collecting other data. He makes a good argument that psychopathy is based on a physical abnormality that is present at birth. So that's interesting.

The book is good for armchair scientists who want to know how things are going in the world of brain-scanning psychopaths. That's half the book.

The other half of the book is a glimpse into the author's personal world. It's kind of a dull, but vaguely amusing little world. The author is, after all, an academic sort. A TSA search adds up to such an exciting event in his life, he feels he must write about. Or maybe it was just a device to build up the anticipation. Will the terrible psychopath's brain scan show the same abnormality? I'm about to tell you, but wait! First let me tell you how hard it was to get home from the airport...

Eventually, I found it endearing. The book is very readable, and the work he is doing is important and interesting.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly disturbing and also very admirable work April 3, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
One really has to take the hat off to Kent A. Kiehl. The requirements of his Phd program have to be some of the roughest I've ever come across, and even rougher considering the author has chosen it himself: giving interviews and doing MRIs of diagnosed psychopaths.

What I found most interesting about his research were the MRIs he performed on the test subjects, all of whom were murderers, rapists, drug runners. thieves, con artists and, well, what one would expect from diagnosed and incarcerated psychopaths. I found them interesting because they revealed absolutely nothing different from the average human brain structure at all. Kiehl believes there is a disturbance in the "paralimbic" area of the brain which might account for their behavior, but he really doesn't know.

One of the interviewees, "Chris" (all these names are given to these guys to "protect their anonymity") considered the highlight of his life the week he spend with three prostitutes, using them as drug mules and having sex with them nonstop. A murderer, he had no background of abuse or anything of the kind. 1 in 4 males in prison are psychopaths.

The hardest thing for people to accept about this kind of research is that reveals a truth that is very hard to swallow; sometimes there is no boogeyman. Sometimes these people just are the way they are, and have less self insight than the people who do the most intensive research on them, like Dr. Kiehl. And they have even only a bit here and there of interesting speculation.

Hard read, but this guy's got guts.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Falls Short on Treatment Options February 24, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience by Kent A. Kiehl Ph.D. is an educational look on how functional MRI's provide insight into the psychopathic mind. The book is well written and an easy read. There is not a lot of scientific or psychological jargon that will be beyond the comprehension of most readers. The style is very relaxed and combines an academic and autobiographical approach.

Following are my thoughts on The Psychopath Wisperer:


+ Interesting information on the use of Functional MRI (fMRI) and the difference in brains between psychopaths and non-psychopaths
+ Good information on the relationship between conduct disorder in youth and psychopathy in adults along with information on Callous Conduct Disordered Youth
+ Information on the importance of the amygdala and the paralimbic system in relation to antisocial personality disorder
+ Discussion on different assessments used to diagnose antisocial personality traits
+ Discussion of the Decompression Model used at Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center which is a treatment program focused on juveniles. As Kiehl states, "The results were nothing short of staggering."
+ Good overview of the history of psychopathy


- Much of the information and examples is based on the DSM-IV which is now outdated since the introduction of the DSM-V. I would have like to seen the author incorporate information from the DSM-V.
- I do not feel that the title is representative of the topic. Using the title "The Psychopath Whisperer" implies that there is some control gained over psychopaths which is not the case. There is more "understanding" but not control.
- The book is written in part academic style and part autobiographical style.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
light summer reading.
Published 5 days ago by Scot Severns
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but annoying ...
This was as much of an autobiography as it was a book about psychopathy. The author certainly knows his stuff for he never fails to inform the reader at every turn of the page. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Bryn C. Dunham
4.0 out of 5 stars Might want to read this to see if you should change roommates like Dr....
Know anyone that's just a little odd? Might want to read this to see if you should change roommates like Dr. Kiehl's friend. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Sharon Craig
5.0 out of 5 stars If you loved to read Dr
Dr.Kiehl tells a lot of interesting stories in this book, and he challenges the knowledge about the subject. If you loved to read Dr.Bob Hare, you'll absolute like this book! Read more
Published 11 days ago by DRS. A.J.W. ESSERS
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book.
This book/dissertation is a great look into the minds of psychopaths. Learned many things not previously known about the topic. Worth reading.
Published 12 days ago by Susan C. Happell
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr. Kiehl Reveals Genetic Role In Psychopaths
Kent A. Kiehl, PHD shares his passion for understanding psychopathic behavior in his book, "The Psychopath Whisperer~The Science of Those Without a Conscience". Read more
Published 22 days ago by Denise M. DiFalco
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting read
The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience by Kent A. Kiehl was a great read. The author takes us in detail into his career as a psychopath researcher. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Elizabeth
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautfully written and an absolute joy to read
Beautfully written and an absolute joy to read. If you're a newbie to the world of forensic psychology or neuroscience it is simplistic enough to understand. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Holly Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Shh. Let me whisper in your ear before I . . .
I'm trying not to put any “spoilers” in this review, but I am not that trustworthy. So be very careful if you read this review. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Modesty Press
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read!
I was intrigued immediately when I saw the title of this book. I love to watch true crime shows and so this appealed to me. Read more
Published 1 month ago by homesick742
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