THE PSYCHOPATH WHISPERER by Kent A. Kiehl

THE PSYCHOPATH WHISPERER

The Science of Those Without Conscience

KIRKUS REVIEW

A world-renowned researcher of psychopaths delves into the origins of their behavior, especially as they relate to the inner workings of the brain.

Psychopaths are at once terrifying and magnetic. Marked by an absence of empathy or remorse and possessing a seemingly insatiable appetite for criminal activity, the “psycho” has long been a recurring subject in fictional and true-life media. But until recently, little was understood about what made these offenders tick. Kiehl (Neuroscience, Psychology, and Law/Univ. of New Mexico) spent decades investigating the psychological and neurochemical makeup of psychopaths. He was a pioneer in using MRI machines to scan the brains of imprisoned psychopaths and also worked with Dr. Robert Hare, the inventor of the Psychopathy Checklist, an important tool used in psychological diagnostics. By scanning and analyzing the brains of hundreds of people who met the psychological criteria for psychopathy, most of them prison inmates, the author discovered that a majority displayed a significant abnormality in the same exact region of the brain—a huge breakthrough. Kiehl writes about the cutting-edge science involved in his research using relatable language and visual data, and he weaves several fascinating case studies throughout the technical discussion, giving readers a close look at how locating different electrical impulses in the brain can provide a more nuanced understanding of psychopathic behaviors. He reveals that one in four inmates in maximum security prisons is a psychopath, a number that lends urgency to his research but that also raises complicated moral and legal questions. For example, if a teenager displaying troubling behavior patterns produces a brain scan that matches the abnormalities clinically associated with psychopaths, should any action be taken? Alternatively, if a psychopath is on trial for murder, should these abnormal brain scans be considered evidence?

Kiehl navigates these issues and more with compassion and insight. Fast-paced and thrilling.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7704-3584-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2014




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