- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Current (October 31, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591846005
- ISBN-13: 978-1591846000
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 199 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain Hardcover – October 31, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Is author Fallon a law-abiding research scientist and family man or a dangerous psychopath? In this memoir-meets-pop-sci examination of psychopathy, Fallon discovers, to his initial surprise, that he has brain functions similar to a cohort of hardened criminals. The book takes chapter-length looks at the neurological features, possible genetic and epigenetic causes, and developmental triggers of psychopathy, with detours through Fallon's personal and familial history. Unfortunately, Fallon's memoir of realizations is emotionally flat (which is perhaps unfair criteria to judge a psychopath by), lazily assembled, and amounts to little more than a confessional booth's enumeration of sins. He cheats with his kids at Scrabble, parties too hard, alienates his co-workers, and takes his brother to an Ebola-infested cave and considers using him as lion bait. These vices, Fallon is happy to tell you, provide him a great deal of malevolent glee, though there is little pleasure for readers to bask in—Fallon's narration is too sterile and, ironically, too self-serving to ever entice the reader. For a quick overview of current theories of brain science and mental illness, Fallon's book is useful; for insight into foreign mental and emotional territories, look elsewhere. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Nov.)
“The Psychopath Inside is a deeply compelling personal story of an eminent scientist’s discovery of his own psychopathy. Jim Fallon confesses the sins of his biology and in doing so receives the absolution of being human. I couldn’t put it down.”
—PAUL J. ZAK, PhD, author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity
“As comprehensive as it is compelling, essential reading for understanding the genetic and neuroscience underpinnings of psychopathy.”
—M. E. THOMAS, author of Confessions of a Sociopath
“Just the word ‘psychopath’ is enough to grab anyone’s attention and it has inspired numerous TV shows and films for many decades. In truth, I believe the word itself does little to wrap its arms around the infinite behavioral traits psychopaths possess, for good and bad. Fallon lets us inside his mind as he takes us on a deftly woven journey, breaking down every convention of psychopathic behavior.”
—SIMON MIRREN, former executive producer of Criminal Minds
“In a thought-provoking account of self-exploration, Fallon puts himself ‘under the microscope’ in an attempt to make sense of how his own biological and developmental history has shaped his life. His perspective on psychopathy pushes us to consider the important roles of nature and nurture, and the fine line between adaptive and maladaptive personality traits.”
—JOHN F. EDENS, PhD, professor of psychology, director of clinical training, and Cornerstone Faculty Fellow, College of Liberal Arts, Texas A&M University
"An intriguing look into the dark side of the brain. A must-read for anyone curious about why our brains think our darkest thoughts and how many of us go into states of psychosis without even realizing it. Dr. Fallon's study of my own brain helped me come to terms with my strangest ideas and why I function the way I do. Few people understand the brain as well as Dr. Fallon, and can write about it in such a fun and engaging way. A fascinating read."
—ELI ROTH, writer, director, and producer
“Absorbing, insightful and quirky”
“His surprising final diagnosis could broaden the way we see normality.”
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Fallon admits that he's a narcissist and a psychopath, and he goes into some detail about the havoc this has wrought in the lives of his children and wife especially. He is apparently a deceitful womanizer, a sometimes drunk, a cold revenge-seeker, and a party animal extraordinaire. His candor about these character problems is admirable and chilling at the same time. In the end, unable to avoid the truth about himself, though, he just says, "I don't care." This is one of the most disturbing and revealing parts of the book.
The odd thing, though, is that he ends the book by claiming that psychopaths are on the whole good for society (if bad for the individuals around them) because they make life more fun, or something. This is the least convincing part of the book. He has just shown us how he callously tricks his family and colleagues, to the point that some of them refuse to associate with him any more. Then he claims it's all for the greater good! And he doesn't seem to see that this attitude is in itself psychopathic.
The most important point that he makes, for those of us who are parents, is that he would have been a much worse psychopath--possibly a criminal--if his parents hadn't raised him so well. In other words, he went from believing that genes are destiny to believing that the environment, one's upbringing, is the real determinant of whether or not a person with the "warrior gene" and the psychopathic brain scan will go on to be a serial killer or just a party animal scientist like himself.
I'm sure he's correct that childhood experiences, especially in the first few years when the brain is growing rapidly, are extremely important in shaping personality and character. But I think he underestimates the damage he's done to the people around him, or perhaps, as he says, he just doesn't care. I think Mr Fallon is not quite as benign as he sees himself, despite his professional success and lack of a criminal record. He was very lucky not only to have good parents, but to have married an extremely patient and loyal woman. I wonder what her book about him would be like.
This is what I know about psychopaths. Psychopathy seems to be a neurological problem. The visible symptoms are a lack of empathy, a lack of conscience, an inability to anticipate effect from cause which results in being unable to learn from mistakes. Psychopaths tend to be self involved to the point of monomania. This, of course, makes them boring–something I should have remembered when I picked up this book.
The psychopath inside is the story of a man, Jim Fallon, who is a neuropsychological researcher. He took his own brain scans as a control in a contemporary study on alzheimer’s and discovered that his scan looked a lot like the scans of psychopaths in a study he had done on psychopathic killers.
This book is incredibly technical. One can not expect, or shouldn’t, a psychopath to write about depth of feeling for the same reason one can not expect a Down Syndrome child to explain the genetic and environmental factors of their success or failure. So Jim talks about his work, and his observations. The only insight we get into the reality of being a psychopath is when he tells us he could change, but he doesn’t care enough to try–except in a clinical study.
Long story short: this book is a good technical introduction to psychopathy, but it doesn’t make any effort to be comprehensible for the lay reader, nor does it have any deep insight. This is, of course, the reality of life as (or with) a psychopath. It is a not a pathetic existence, if only because of the lack of awareness of pathos.