For the first fifty-eight years of his life James Fallon was by all appearances a normal guy. A successful neuroscientist and medical school professor, he'd been raised in a loving, supportive family, married his high school sweetheart, and had three kids and lots of friends.
Then he learned a shocking truth that would not only disrupt his personal and professional life, but would lead him to question the very nature of his own identity.
The Psychopath Inside tells the fascinating story of Fallon's reaction to the discovery that he has the brain of a psychopath. While researching serial murderers, he uncovered a distinct neurological pattern in their brain scans that helped explain their cold and violent behavior. A few months later he learned that he was descended from a family with a long line of murderers which confirmed that Fallon's own brain pattern wasn't a fluke.
As a scientist convinced that humans are shaped by their genetics, Fallon set out to reconcile the truth about his brain with everything he knew about the mind, behavior, and the influence of nature vs. nurture on our personalities. How could he, a successful scientist and a happy family man with no history of violence, be a psychopath? How much did his biology influence his behavior? Was he capable of some of the gruesome atrocities perpetrated by the serial killers he had studied?
Combining his personal experience with scientific analysis, Fallon shares his journey and the discoveries that ultimately led him to understand that, despite everything science can teach us, humans are even more complex than we can imagine.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-09-09
- Reviewer: Staff
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.)