I have posted before about James Fallon, neuroscientist, University of California, Irvine, professor, psychopath expert, and successful psychopath (?) before. I thought this video was worth posting as well because it targets more the personal experience of what his family thinks about who he is and his childhood was instrumental in Jim not developing into a killer, despite his brain and genetic predispositions.
6:55: His mother tells him about how Lizzie Borden is a cousin of his. On one line of his family there were at least 16 murderers.
7:54: He decides to check the brain scans and DNA of his family members for the brain signatures and genes linked to psychopathy. He discovers everyone is normal except for him, who has the brain scan signature of a killer and all of the genetic markers predisposing to impulsivity, violence, etc.
10:05: Reaction from his family "I knew there was always something off. It makes more sense now." "Everything that you would want in a serial killer he has in a fundamental way." "It was surprising but it wasn't surprising." "He's always had a standoffish part to him."
11:00: Jim is honest with himself "I have characteristics or traits, some of which are . . . psychopathic." he gives the example of how he could blow off an aunt's funeral. "I know something's wrong, but I still don't care."
11:40: Why wasn't he a killer? "Whether genes are triggered or not will depend on what happens in your childhood."
12:28: "It turns out that I had a unbelievably wonderful childhood."
I think this is an interesting and accurate portrayal of what a high functioning psychopath might look like. I think people expect to see very obvious differences, but frequently they're not obvious or they're not really visible. It's like this response from Jennifer Kahn, author of that NY Times Magazine article on psychopathic children, when asked about whether the child's behavior was more or less extreme than she expected:
I think I expected Michael to be more immediately extreme. When I arrived, he was on his good behavior, but he did get extreme later in the night. Something that Waschbusch said he struggles with is that it is hard to define what is prepsychopathic behavior and what is behavior caused by a different kind of problem — it does tend to cross different diagnoses. It wasn’t the screaming or fits or slamming the toilet seat that struck me; it was the calculated coldness and the flip between emotional states. But I had expected it to be more obvious. When I entered the house, of course, I was thinking of adult psychopaths who have led criminal lives for decades, which is normally how they come to our attention. I was maybe expecting a child version of that, but of course that’s kind of ridiculous. Even among adult psychopaths, that would be a small minority.