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The Psychopath Inside

A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain
Written by: James Fallon
Narrated by: Walter Dixon
Length: 4 hrs and 58 mins
4 out of 5 stars (73 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The memoir of a neuroscientist whose research led him to a bizarre personal discovery, James Fallon had spent an entire career studying how our brains affect our behavior when his research suddenly turned personal.

While studying brain scans of several family members, he discovered that one perfectly matched a pattern he’d found in the brains of serial killers. This meant one of two things: Either his family’s scans had been mixed up with those of felons or someone in his family was a psychopath. Even more disturbing: The scan in question was his own. This is Fallon’s account of coming to grips with this discovery and its implications.

How could he, a happy family man who had never been prone to violence, be a psychopath? How much did his biology influence his behavior? Fallon shares his journey to answer these questions and the discoveries that ultimately led to his conclusion: Despite everything science can teach, humans are even more complex than we can imagine.

©2013 James Fallon (P)2013 Gildan Media LLC

What the critics say

“As comprehensive as it is compelling, essential listening for understanding the genetic and neuroscience underpinnings of psychopathy.” (M. E. Thomas, author of Confessions of a Sociopath)

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a little overwhelming

I love psychology. but, when I'm listening to audiobooks I ten to be in a relaxed mode, usually doing some other simple chore at the same time (driving, cutting grass, house chores)...the narrator read this book so fast I actually had to check that I hadn't accidentally increased the speed on my settings.. being a strongly science based book, it's easier to absorb with a more regular cadence

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Not recommended

Not surprisingly, a memoir written by a "psychopath light" is overly self involved. The details of brain function were hurried over, and therefore confusing. The three legged stool analogy got tiresome. The anecdotes were too long. The multiple genetic factors were overly simplified to imply "this is why I do this". I felt like personality descriptions were no better than horoscopes where anyone can say "sounds like me". I was disappointed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very technical, brutally honest self evaluation.

Great narration and very interesting. Some of it went over my head but I still learned alot. Makes me question my own social tendances.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Interesting and provocative

Good background in neuroscience.
The audiobook is read as a very fast speed, too fast (does he care?!?).
The author clearly shows narcissic behavior.
However globally very interesting and well written

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It's okay

The writer is pretentious, and the narration is a bit fast. It is just okay.

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really interesting

great narrator, great writing, very scientific in certain chapters, but still interesting for someone with no knowledge of neurobiology!

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Disturbing and Very Interesting

I've always wondered why psychopaths have to exist. This books does give some resolution to this question. The narrator's style is perfect for the story. You feel that the speed and fluidity of his voice represents the brain that had these thoughts. We all brush up against psychopaths in our day to day. Recognizing that person's potential might just save you a world of pain. His story feels soooo honest but you have to remember the source. He warns against being close to a psychopath. That is the truth I would take from this book.

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Fantastic Book

Great delve into the authors life and history as a "psychopath". If you find it fascinating to listen to a neuroscientist analyze his own actions and experiences through his life and how they intertwine with his brainscan that revealed he has a "Psychopath Brain" You will greatly enjoy this audiobook. Great Narration. #Audible1

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Keeps you intrigued

Writing keeps you on your toes for the most time . But the story telling aspect is monotonous and lacks dimensionality. Overall is educational and worth a read #Audible1

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An important piece in the puzzle of psycopathy

While sometimes painful listening to someone who is a self confessed asshole talk about his disregard for his friends and family, this book is a good reminder that nurture can make all the difference for someone with a potentially dangerous brain chemistry. It would be an important perspective for someone studying the behavior of psychopaths as so often the tale is told using violent offenders as the subject matter. Ultimately this book is exactly as advertised.

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  • smarmer
  • 2014-09-21

Entertaining story with some quick neuroscience

Any additional comments?

The book itself is interesting on several levels. It tells the story of a successful Professor who stumbled across the finding that his brain resembled those of psychopaths and serial killers. In researching himself he also discovered murderers in his extended family tree.

The underlying neuroscience of psychopathy was presented in lightning fast speed that was hard to follow in the audible version, even for someone like myself who is a physician. I ended up buying the printed book so I could reread those sections and look at the images and diagrams.

One particularly useful point in the book is his distinction between psychopathic and antisocial. His brain was psychopathic but his behavior was not antisocial. I regard this as a meaningful and helpful distinction.

Professor Fallon's personal story was fascinating if more than a trace narcissistic. I also had the sense that he greatly minimized some of his peccadillos in the middle of the book while alluding to greater indiscretions toward the end.

The subtextual question of nature versus nurture runs through the book. Professor Fallon's bias is toward the nature explanation, stating that 80% of who we are is determined by our inborn biology and the structure of our brain. At the end he does leave the door open to the possibility that it was the nurturing tolerance of and containment of his youthful adventurous escapades by his understanding parents that shepherded his psychopathic brain into a productive life with only minimal misbehavior.

This is a fun book to listen to for an aerial view of the topic. It will be sufficient for most readers. The more serious student of the topic will need to pursue it elsewhere but this is an entertaining start.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Sally P.
  • 2018-06-06

The Narcissist Inside

This felt like an overly self-congratulatory essay on how evolved and superior the author is due to his self diagnosed psychopathy. A pompous and vapid autobiography that hardly lends itself to real scientific discovery of the human brain.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Douglas
  • 2014-04-26

Like Other Readers...

I found Fallon at times the slightest bit self-indulgent (should we expect otherwise, given the theme?), but, for the most part, this is an interesting and entertaining book. If you want something more serious and scientific, read Without Conscience or The Science Of Evil, but this book serves nicely for an up-to-date primer for the neurology of psychopathy, and it also serves its purpose well: the story of one man's dealing with the realization that he has the brain structure and innate tendencies of the very people he has been studying for years: the psychopath.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Cheimon
  • 2014-05-29

Powerful due to unlikable first-person perspective

What distinguishes this book from others is its first-person perspective - on occasion, you realize that the guy talking to you is, in fact, a psychopath. With the behavior, the narcissism and the expectations of one.

That he can explain the workings of the brain as an expert provides a valuable theoretical backdrop. But this book stands out because we start out rooting for the author because we are embarking on a personal journey with him, until his choices leave us disappointed over and over again - just like we are dealing with a psychopath.

If you are interested in the subject matter, do not miss this book.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • LoveFromBothSides
  • 2013-12-25

Jaw dropping! But an amazing read!

After hearing this wonderfully fun, insightful, scary book, the question that lingers is: Who is his wife?? Wow! The woman has the patience of a saint!

Now, because I've just spent two years in a relationship with a man who has the same kind of brain that James Fallon has, I have personal experience at how "trying" it can be! I have read all the "Psychopathy" books, and found them okay, except that they demonized the "disorder." They encouraged me to delete this man from my life. Completely. "No Contact!" They all screamed at me.

I tried, but he wouldn't let me go... (just as those books predicted!) And I couldn't delete him from my brain or my heart no matter how hard I tried! No matter how bad I knew he was for me. And it really pissed me off! ;^)) Because he's impossible! But he's also funny, smart, charming - like so many psychopaths!

So I wanted to find a way to "understand" what was going on with him, and James Fallon's book gave me exactly what I needed. Fallon explains the brain structures that compel the person (usually male) to be an extreme thrill seeker, drinker, druggie.. and many other lovely "anti-social" things that even James Fallon won't describe. Be that as it may, the take-away from this book is that "his brain" is needed in our species's DNA mix. And I think he's right.

He's given me another way to deal with the "personality disorder" that I love. Now, I can decide what I want to do with him from a less charged and far less judgmental perspective. I know he will never change. All I needed from the relationship was to learn to love unconditionally.

James's wife, who's known James since he was 12, must have an over-soul who reminds her of his inner goodness. Learning to love someone unconditionally is more difficult than people realize. James's wife has done it! I doubt that I have the same patience.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • ThunderInTheSun
  • 2019-07-06

Daring Adventure or Narcissistic Odyssey?

So given the content of this book, I wonder which is more true of the above question? I do think it's a little bit of each but, nevertheless, a fascinating portrait of a man at the interface between psychiatry and neuroscience by the author/artist, who as a neuroscientist himself, embarks upon a journey of self discovery and self redemption. What kind of 'artist' this author really is will be left up to the listener to decide at the conclusion of the book. I found myself, as a physician and scientist myself, either despising this man or feeling pity for him and his family yet applauding his abject honesty concerning his behavior over the years toward friends, family, and colleagues that he describes while correlating this with his neuropsychiatric genetic predisposition. A fascinating look into how the structure and function of the brain and it's neurochemical pathways help make up our moods and personalities with Dr. Fallon as guinea pig central.

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mair
  • 2019-06-24

Loved the science and the story

Great book. Sciency, but not 'omg I am lost' sciency. Dr. Fallons story is one of my favorites and I tell it whenever the opportunity arrises.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-03-26

James Fallon is great for this read. Such insight

As a pro- social psychopath, he gives us the playbook for anti social behavior and the manipulation that is used. Thank you James Fallon!

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  • average consumer
  • 2019-03-05

Psychopathy as a spectrum. Who knew?

You learn something new every day. While it’s incorrect to say “the science is in” on Psychopathy, it is certainly more than fair to say Fallon has turned over more than enough rocks on the subject to warrant further study and exploration. His discoveries thus far, at the very least, open the door to “partial” diagnoses, potentially upending the practice of traditional pass/fail scoring systems on the disorder that have undergirded the APA diagnostic system for decades. A practice that has allowed certain patients to “fall through the cracks” of treatment if not to fly completely under the mental health radar altogether. This is of particular importance if, as James Fallon strongly suggests in this book, early childhood experiences and/or interventions have profound implications on where exactly the fully formed adult will eventually land on the spectrum. This book is truly ground breaking. A must read.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-11-23

The level of narcissism is nauseating

I understand it’s a story about himself, but it’s downright masturbatory. I couldn’t handle it. Returned it after listening to a couple hours.