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The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Kent A. Kiehl PhD

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22. April 2014
A compelling journey into the science and behavior of psychopaths, written by the leading scientist in the field of criminal psychopathy.

We know of psychopaths from chilling headlines and stories in the news and movies—from Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, to Hannibal Lecter and Dexter Morgan. As Dr. Kent Kiehl shows, psychopaths can be identified by a checklist of symptoms that includes pathological lying; lack of empathy, guilt, and remorse; grandiose sense of self-worth; manipulation; and failure to accept one’s actions. But why do psychopaths behave the way they do? Is it the result of their environment— how they were raised—or is there a genetic compo­nent to their lack of conscience?

This is the question Kiehl, a protégé of famed psychopath researcher Dr. Robert Hare, was deter­mined to answer as he began his career twenty years ago. To aid in his quest to unravel the psy­chopathic mind, Kiehl created the first mobile functional MRI scanner to study psychopaths in prison populations. The brains of more than five hundred psychopaths and three thousand other offenders have been scanned by Kiehl’s labora­tory—the world’s largest forensic neuroscience repository of its kind. Over the course of The Psy­chopath Whisperer, we follow the scientific bread crumbs that Kiehl uncovered to show that the key brain structures that correspond with emotional engagement and reactions are diminished in psy­chopaths, offering new clues to how to predict and treat the disorder.

In The Psychopath Whisperer, Kiehl describes in fascinating detail his years working with psy­chopaths and studying their thought processes— from the remorseless serial killers he meets with behind bars to children whose behavior and per­sonality traits exhibit the early warning signs of psychopathy.

Less than 1 percent of the general population meets the criteria for psychopathy. But psycho­paths account for a vastly outsized proportion of violent crimes. And as Kiehl shows, many who aren’t psychopaths exhibit some of the behaviors and traits associated with the condition. What do you do if you discover your roommate, or boss, or the person you are dating has traits that define a psy­chopath? And what does having a diminished limbic region of the brain mean for how the legal system approaches crimes committed by psychopaths?

A compelling narrative of cutting-edge science, The Psychopath Whisperer will open your eyes on a fascinating but little understood world, with startling implications for society, the law, and our personal lives.

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“A world-renowned researcher of psychopaths delves into the origins of their behavior, especially as it relates to the inner workings of the brain...Navigates these issues and more with compassion and insight. Fast-paced and thrilling.” -Kirkus Reviews

"In this compassionate study, Kiehl, professor of psychology, neurosciences, and law at the University of New Mexico, attempts to provide a way to understand and improve the lives of psychopaths...Kiehl's goal is not to sensationalize, but rather to learn and assist...His pedigree speaks volumes: he has devoted a good portion of his career to this oft-maligned population." -Publishers Weekly

"A renowned neuroscientist provides us with a fascinating account of his personal journey into the mind of the psychopath." –Robert D. Hare, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia, author of Without Conscience
“A lucid and closely observed portrait of what psychopaths are actually like, with their chilling combination of moral apathy and charm, by one of the leading researchers and innovators in the field.  A Fascinating and terrifying book, and a potential life saver.” –John Seabrook, The New Yorker
“A must read! Dr. Kiehl’s stories about psychopaths are as authentic as can be. I found Dr. Kiehl’s research formed the backbone of my work in analyzing the behavioral signature of a psychopath left behind at the crime scene.  Whether you work in mental health, law enforcement, the judiciary or research, don’t trust your gut about this disorder– learn about it from one of the foremost experts in the field.” –Mary Ellen O’Toole, Special Agent (retired), Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
"Highly engaging and personal perspective from a world leading scientist in the field of psychopathy research. What sets this book apart is the combination of an accessible overview of the cutting edge science and compelling and authentic portrayal of what individuals with psychopathy are really like." - Essi Viding, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, University College London
"By primates standards, humans are intensely social, affiliative, and empathic.   Thus, we are fascinated with the rare individuals who lack those traits, who have a reptilian indifference to what makes humans humane.  Criminal psychopaths are the iconic example of such terrifyingly broken humans.  In this superb book written by one of the pioneers in this field, Kent Kiehl explores what is different about the brains of psychopaths.  This is a clear, accessible account of the science and, in addition, an appealing personal story of how Kiehl has gone about his unique science." –Robert Sapolsky, Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University
“An exhilarating exploration into the lives, minds and emotions of criminal psychopaths by one of the leading researchers in the field. This lively and engaging narrative not only educates the reader on the internal machinations of the psychopath, but also takes us through Kiehl’s own life journey of scientific discovery. It’s an irresistible read that is hard to put down.  Even after decades of my own research I found myself learning new perspectives on the psychopath. Serious, witty, saddening and beguiling, The Psychopath Whisperer yells out as a “must read” for anyone interested in those without conscience.” –Adrian Raine, Professor of Criminology, Psychiatry, and Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
“The fascinating story of how Kent Kiehl, a remarkably energetic and accomplished scientist, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a mobile brain scanner to examine the brains of more psychopathic prisoners than anyone in the world and characterize their dysfunction. Filled with entertaining anecdotes of psychopaths in prison, research collaborations, and scientific discovery, the book discusses the ramifications of his finding to the criminal system and to the treatment of psychopathic juvenile delinquents. An eye-opening read!” - Dr. Joseph Newman, Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

KENT A. KIEHL, PhD, is an executive science offi­cer of the nonprofit Mind Research Network and a professor of psychology, neurosciences, and law at the University of New Mexico. In addition to authoring more than 130 articles in peer-reviewed publications, Kiehl has writ­ten for Scientific American, has appeared on NPR, and was profiled by John Seabrook in The New Yorker. He currently directs five major NIH-funded projects in psychopathy and related mental illnesses. He lectures extensively to state and federal judges, lawyers, cor­rectional officials, and lay audiences about the inter­section of neuroscience and the law.

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.2 von 5 Sternen  84 Rezensionen
22 von 23 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Engaging book weaves together the career of the scientist and his studies 20. März 2014
Von A. Reid - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
A combination of memoir and primer on psychopaths, The Psychopath Whisperer manages to communicate a lot of information on its subject relatively painlessly. The information is related alongside the story of Kiehl's entry into the field of psychopath study, from his days as a graduate student working in Canadian prisons to his first major trial as a professional. Alongside Kiehl's career, we see the application of MRIs in this study advance.

This book should be interesting to those with a desire to learn more about how psychopaths tick - how they are identified and distinguished, what is known or believed about how they evolve. It offers insight into how psychopaths think about themselves. Science, it delivers.

What it does not deliver is any techniques for "whispering" to psychopaths. "Whispering" is the soft science of establishing rapport generally with animals, like horses. Kiehl has worked alongside psychopaths and has gleaned some excellent information for them, but he doesn't even approach rapport or try to teach others how to do so. To me, this is a plus. The path to helping psychopaths and protecting society from them seems almost certainly destined to come from outside.

Although I personally could have done with a little less biography and a little more science, I suspect the blend was a good one to keep this book engaging to readers of broad background. I enjoyed the book, which was consistently engaging, and will recommend.
13 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Not quite what I expected, but a very interesting book 7. März 2014
Von Orion - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
I feel like I should start with a spoiler alert, because this book reads like a mystery story. The clues are released a few at a time. Do psychopaths have a consistent, measurable brain abnormality? Why yes! They do. Our hero proves it by spending years, in fact his whole career, taking MRI scans of prisoners and collecting other data. He makes a good argument that psychopathy is based on a physical abnormality that is present at birth. So that's interesting.

The book is good for armchair scientists who want to know how things are going in the world of brain-scanning psychopaths. That's half the book.

The other half of the book is a glimpse into the author's personal world. It's kind of a dull, but vaguely amusing little world. The author is, after all, an academic sort. A TSA search adds up to such an exciting event in his life, he feels he must write about. Or maybe it was just a device to build up the anticipation. Will the terrible psychopath's brain scan show the same abnormality? I'm about to tell you, but wait! First let me tell you how hard it was to get home from the airport...

Eventually, I found it endearing. The book is very readable, and the work he is doing is important and interesting.
17 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
1.0 von 5 Sternen All about Kent Kiehl 18. Mai 2014
Von Robert S - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
The previous poster who gave this a one star (R Whitman) said it all perfectly. The book is all about Kiehl. A large portion of the book is on his experiences, his job offers, his experience with the police while getting off an airplane, his testimony in court, his lunches with friends, his negotiations to purchase an advanced MRI machine, and things of the like. What troubled me was the Kiehl always seems to come out successful... All about Kiehl. I purchased this book to learn more about the psychopath, not to read the contents of casual conversations in restaurants with friends. There is very little about psychopaths other than "their brains are different" and also some personal stories. Some of the material i.e. Phineas Gage, PCL-R checklist, etc is documented in other books.
Kiehl only lightly touches on what can (or should) be done with the psychopath. He briefly talks about the program in Wisconsin and its apparent success but then nothing else. No statistics.....nothing. No more than 1/4 of a page devoted to that.
This book is an autobiography. A much much better book is Anatomy of Violence by Adrian Raine.
8 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
1.0 von 5 Sternen not up to the standards I had expected 16. Juni 2014
Von annie - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I found the Psychopath Whisperer to be generally a let down. However, that could have been due to my expectations. I expected in depth analysis of psychopaths including what they had done in their lives, how they felt about it, how truthful they were, and how they came across to the author. I didn't get much of that. Instead, I heard all about how the author began his studies and how he felt at the time. That was fine, but from the start, he struck me as too gullible. He took the criminals he interviewed at their word. From the start, he listened wide eyed to their stories and never mentioned once what liars they could be. He only referenced that psychopaths are liars but it never came across in his interviews. He struck me as a sort of groupie, all worried about what danger he was in, impressed with what they had done and how normal they seemed. Then at the end of what I considered interviews with no information or insight into the particular individual, he gave his conclusion of their rating on the popular psychopath scale.

His book came across as an autobiography, and it reminded me of some of the writing by so-called ghost hunters. With not much information, they tend to focus on their own thoughts and feelings throughout the story. Somehow psychopaths have become our latest craze, and it amazes me how gullible people can be when they think that they have met one. The author never once questioned why he met so many psychopaths so quickly. Can it be that these inmates are bored, know very well what he wants to hear and love to talk about themselves? Did it ever occur to him that just because they did terrible things and don't seem too concerned that it might just mean that they're bad people, but not psychopaths?

I should have realized that the book was not completely professional by the title. The reference to Horse Whisperer was too commercial for the subject. Psychopaths are the latest craze, and of course people will want more books about them. So I could understand the reason for the title. However, I was not able to finish this book, so perhaps it improved near the end.

I won't say not to buy this book, but it would be best if you could read it first before gambling with your money.
16 von 20 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Falls Short on Treatment Options 25. Februar 2014
Von Tradecraft - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience by Kent A. Kiehl Ph.D. is an educational look on how functional MRI's provide insight into the psychopathic mind. The book is well written and an easy read. There is not a lot of scientific or psychological jargon that will be beyond the comprehension of most readers. The style is very relaxed and combines an academic and autobiographical approach.

Following are my thoughts on The Psychopath Wisperer:


+ Interesting information on the use of Functional MRI (fMRI) and the difference in brains between psychopaths and non-psychopaths
+ Good information on the relationship between conduct disorder in youth and psychopathy in adults along with information on Callous Conduct Disordered Youth
+ Information on the importance of the amygdala and the paralimbic system in relation to antisocial personality disorder
+ Discussion on different assessments used to diagnose antisocial personality traits
+ Discussion of the Decompression Model used at Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center which is a treatment program focused on juveniles. As Kiehl states, "The results were nothing short of staggering."
+ Good overview of the history of psychopathy


- Much of the information and examples is based on the DSM-IV which is now outdated since the introduction of the DSM-V. I would have like to seen the author incorporate information from the DSM-V.
- I do not feel that the title is representative of the topic. Using the title "The Psychopath Whisperer" implies that there is some control gained over psychopaths which is not the case. There is more "understanding" but not control.
- The book is written in part academic style and part autobiographical style. I think this book would have been better if it was purely academic but this is a personal preference. The autobiographical information while interesting did not add to the topic. For example, the information on Dr. Kiehl's involvement in building the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center was interesting but I would have rather read more on psychopathy.
- Lot of stories but only nuggets of substance
- Lack of treatment options for psychopaths. Aside from the discussion on the Decompression Model which is used for juveniles there is really minimal discussion on current treatment modalities that are used with psychopaths. For me, this is the major problem with this book. There is a lot more understanding on the differences of a psychopaths brain but how does this information translate to treatment? This is the missing component of this book.

Overall Assessment:

The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience by Kent A. Kiehl Ph.D. is overall a good book that could have been great. Clearly, Dr. Kiehl is an expert on psychopaths but all the information provided in the book doesn't lead to any significant insight on current or prospective treatment modalities. I finished reading the book wanting more information. Having been in law enforcement and the criminal justice system, as well as, having an advanced degree in psychology this book was of particular interest to me. I have dealt with psychopaths and I am interested in current research on the topic. The information on the fMRI was outstanding but the lack of information on how all this information impacts treatment and treatment outcomes was really non-existent. For those who have dealt with psychopaths they will probably feel like they want more information. The casual reader looking for information on psychopaths may be fine with the level of provided information. I really wanted this to be a 5 star book but I can only provide 3 stars.

Other books that I recommend are:

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us
Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition
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