Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Psychopath Within - All in the Mind

When James Fallon's The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (2013) was published, he and the book received a lot of attention, mostly good (The Smithsonian, NPR's Science Friday, The Atlantic), but also some strong criticisms from people in the neuroscience community and elsewhere.

Even Publisher's Weekly was not impressed: "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."

Neurocritic wonders if he completed the Psychopathy Checklist and score over 30? Otherwise, are we to believe that he made this diagnosis from a simple pet scan of his brain?

the fallacy of reverse inference, confusing correlation with causation, and the confirmation bias.

Finally, Jordan Smoller, in the Los Angeles Review of Books, says, "If most psychopaths have a Y chromosome (that is, they are men), and I have a Y chromosome, then I’m likely to be a psychopath inside. If I told you this, you would easily see the error of my logic. But, surprisingly, the neuroscientist James Fallon bases his new book on just this kind of premise."

Be that as it may (criticism is often ignored when it attempts to make popular science conform to the rigors of "real" science), the book has legs. In last week's All in the Mind from Australia's Radio National, Fallon was the guest, along with Mark Dadds.

The Psychopath Within

Sunday 4 May 2014 | Lynne Malcolm

When neuroscientist James Fallon was studying the brain scans of serial killers he noticed that his own scan looked remarkably like one of his psychopathic subjects. When you hear about some of his character traits, and his seemy family background – it begins to make sense. Plus, can we prevent so-called 'callous and unemotional' kids from becoming psychopathic adults?

  • Professor James Fallon, Professor of psychiatry , neuroscience, human behaviour & neurobiology at the University of California, Irvine
  • Professor Mark Dadds, Professor of Clinical Child Psychology at the University of N.S.W, Director of the Child Behaviour Research Clinic at the University of N.S.W.

The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain, by James Fallon

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