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Neuroscientist discovers he is a “psychopath,” from brain scans, rethinks position on key theory


Further to “‘Increasing disquiet’ over crude determinism in neuroscience?”, get this: Reviewing brain scans of murders, schizophrenics, and depressives, neuroscientist James Fallon came across one that was “obviously pathological.” It was his own.

Later, he discovered he was distantly related to some murderers and that he had habits people didn’t like. He told the Smithsonian mag,

“I’m obnoxiously competitive. I won’t let my grandchildren win games…and I do jerky things that piss people off,” he reportedly said. “But while I’m aggressive…my aggression is sublimated. I’d rather beat someone in an argument than beat them up.”


The skeptic (in some of us) notes that, statistically, we are probably all distantly related to some murderers. In bad or troubled times, their actions were not advertised, let alone punished. And even Mother Theresa had a nasty book written about her life and work. So where are we now with this “pathological” stuff? We can pathologize as much of life as we have time for.

Fallon, who has written a book, The Psychopath Inside,

previously believed one’s genetics predominately determined their life path, now has reportedly changed his tune on the issue.

“I was loved, and that protected me,” he told Smithsonian of the nurturing childhood he received from his doting parents, while also crediting the role free will plays in overcoming biology.

Trust me. If you are even wondering if you are a psychopath, you probably aren’t. The fact that one can identify one’s antisocial behaviour with honest regret is a first step in gaining control of it.

True psychopathy would be more like psychosis—a basic component of the condition is to think one’s behaviour normal when all the world experiences it otherwise, refuse all criticism and permit oneself no reflection. – O’Leary for News

Hat tip: Bioethics.com

Interesting interview with the author of a book called "Brainwashed", which deals with pop neuroscience: http://news.emory.edu/stories/2013/11/er_book_report_scott_lilienfeld/campus.html Also, everyone should read "The Sociopath Next Door". Barb

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