The Psychopath Inside is written by a PhD neuro-scientist, James Fallon, who has for years at various insitutions of higher learning has studied the brains of psychopaths and how they are put together.
He was using fMRIs and other scans to take “photos” of the brains of known psychopaths to see how they compared to the brains of “normal” people and he did scans of his entire family, including himself.
James had been a rowdy kid, running with others who stole cars and went joy riding, but never got caught or prosecuted, and had gone on to get his PhD in neuroscience and to finally make his life’s work to study how psychopaths are different from “normal” or “typical” people
James is married and has several children, and he admits in the book that he was a “heavy drinker” and that any time there was a chance to go to a “girlie bar” with his buddies, he was the first one to suggest that they go. He would sometimes not come home at night, though he never admitted in his book of actually “cheating” he did get on line and flirt with other women, which he stated had “hurt” his wife of several decades. He even admitted at one conference he was supposed to present a program and he blew it off and went to a bar instead.
He also mentioned that he was unreliable when social things such as funerals, weddings, etc. were involved and instead of showing up for the funeral of someone he would be expected to go to, he went to a bar instead.
By accident James looked at the stack of numbered but not named fMRIs and saw one that was clearly a psychopath with the characteristics of the brain matter that is now a signal. He thought that somehow the stack of known psychopath scans had some how gotten mixed in with the “normal” ones, and he check and found out that that scan was HIS brain scan.
I sat down to analyze my family’s scans and noticed that the last scan in the pile was strikingly odd. In fact, it looked exactly like the most abnormal of the scans (of psychopaths) I had just been writing about, suggesting the poor individual it belonged to was a psychopath….when I found out who the scan belonged to, I had to believe there was a mistake. ….but there was no mistake, the scan was mine.
He discussed this with some of his fellow researchers, and they basically told him, “Jim we’ve been telling you for years you are a psychopath, and you wouldn’t listen.”
They also told him that the DSM-V which is the diagnostic “bible” for psychology does not even contain the term “psychopath” and that even experts and researchers don’t agree on a definition for this term.
Well, he still didn’t listen but he did set out on a genetic quest to see if he had any ancestors who were psychopaths. He did his genealogy and had his own complete DNA genome mapped…and came up with several very distant ancestors or relatives who appeared to be psychopaths including Lizzie Borden, and a man who in the 1600s was the first man hanged for killing his mother in the colonies in North America.
From the descriptions of his brothers though who loved to get into very heavy fist fights, I think he could have looked closer to home than some ancestor or relative in the 1600s.
Fallon discusses the issues with defining of psychopath and the scientific studies going on. He talks about how genetic and neuroscience researchers are working together to be able to define a psychopath, or people like himself who are callous but not criminal which he calls “psychopath lite.”
Over all this book gives a telling view of the genetic and environmental mix it takes to make up a psychopath and underscores the fact that the physical brain of a psychopath lacks the chemicals and the neurons that make empathy and desire for self control difficult, but they are not without choices.
Fallon claims at the end of the book that he is trying to be “nicer” and more responsible to his family, attending funerals, weddings and birthday parties, giving compliments to his wife, but admits that he does not “get it” or really care about these things at all. He also realizes that he hurt his wife deeply with his flirting with other women but he really, he admits, just doesn’t care.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks they have come up against a psychopath in their immediate circle or even in their family. By understanding what makes a person callous and mean spirited we can more easily decide if we want to continue an association or relationship with them.
We don’t really need a brain scan to confirm that a person has lack of empathy, we can see it by how they treat others or us. If a person doesn’t exhibit a caring and responsible behavior, and continually exhibits lack of care for hurting others, then….s/he may be a psychopath, or a psychopath “lite” but in any case they will not be the kind of person we can trust, or that will make our lives better.
I feel sorry for Fallon’s wife, Diane. Even though he is trying (he says) to show kindness and consideration for her, he even admits himself, he just doesn’t CARE for others.