This is the first half of the transcript of my podcast broadcast December 18, 2013
Thanks to Dick Overfield for transcript checking
R.K.: And welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM out of Washington Township, New Jersey reaching Metro Philly and South Jersey. My guest tonight is James Fallon. He is the author of the book, The Psychopath Inside; A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain. Welcome to the show.
J.F.: Rob, thanks for having me.
R.K.: Now you're a brain researcher, can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
J.F.: Yeah, I have multiple sorts of endeavors, research endeavors and one which is long lasting has to do with adult stem cells for treating long-term stroke, Parkinson's, that's one. And I have a company that was just created for that and I have other work in imaging genetics. That is the use of brain imaging plus genetics and psychiatry in order to understand schizophrenia, addictions, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, but also a small parallel study that I've been doing since the early to mid 90's on murderers and psychopaths, serial killers.
R.K.: Now what University are you at? Where are you?
J.F.: I'm in University California, Irvine, at the medical school here. California.
R.K.: I apologize, I usually have it all prepared and I was reading until the very end of your book and just finished it as I called into the conference line that we use to record the call. I started to say it off the recording and I wanted to say it on. It's a great book, it's riveting and it drew me right through from the first page to the last page.
J.F.: Oh great.
R.K.: And as an interviewer, I try to do a good job and get a good feel of what a books about, but there aren't that many psychopaths. M.E. Thomas was the author of the book, Confessions of a Sociopath, but in the book she disclosed that she has been scored by the Hare scale which is the gold standard for measuring psychopathy as a psychopath. And now, you've taken that, has somebody scored you on that test because it would not mean anything if you took it yourself?
J.F.: Right. I've been scored and also on the PPI and I've had multiple personality tests and I have worked closely with a psychiatrist who studied this for many years who know my behavior. I actually take their sort of analysis more so because they know my behavior so well and they are long in the tooth psychiatrists who are used to it and one, also a neurologist, who is now retired and so I really go more off of what they had to say about me which was a little surprising but that sort of long term analysis seems to really work best because I can't fool them. You know what I mean? And it's hard to fool the interviewers on the Hare test but you can but somebody who really knows intimately your behaviors is really a great way to do it.
R.K.: And that's interesting because you say near the end of your book, "So, am I psychopath? The categorical answer is no." But then right after that you say, "...but a better answer is that I am a pro-social psychopath" and a couple of lines later you say, "I'm a lucky psychopath." So, it kind of sounds like you're ambivalent about whether you are or not and that comes through more and more as you go through the book and your journey of discovery really.
J.F.: Sure. Rob, that's based on a couple of factors. One is that really in psychiatry, nobody really agrees that there is such a thing as a psychopath let alone a sociopath. We know the traits are there but that categorical definition overlaps in traits so much with narcissism and even some sadism and things like that. So it's not really accepted as a thing in itself. You know what Bob Hare did which was terrific. He was working on, or more interested in the criminality part of it whereas many researchers now look at core psychopathy as not necessarily having evolved so much as the antisocial personality disorder having to do with criminality.
R.K.: You know one of my favorite quotes is from Ben Franklin which basically says that the beauty about rationalization is you can rationalize anything. And you're a really bright guy. You've disclosed you've got over a hundred and fifty IQ and that means that you're really, really good at rationalizing whatever you want to think. So-
J.F.: Absolutely. Yeah. That's true. Which is why more and more I had to externalize this and really ask everybody close to me, including psychiatrists who knew me so well, really what they thought of me and what I do because I couldn't really trust myself. First of all I did not know, until a few years ago, that I was, really had these traits that were so off-putting. I thought I was always a great guy and so I had to go to great measures and went all the way back to my childhood and high school and everything and people who are now psychologists who knew me when I was much, much younger to really sort it out because in many sense people won't tell you the truth and you certainly create a whole narrative for your life which I did. And so, yeah, I think I have to keep watching myself because I keep saying you're probably kidding yourself. Like you're saying, you're probably rationalizing something. So trying to cut through that has taken a couple of years, I'll tell you.