The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science Of Those Without Conscience by Kent A. Kiehl | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science Of Those Without Conscience by Kent A. Kiehl | Book ReviewThe Psychopath Whisperer by Kent A. Kiehl, PhD
Published by Crown/Archetype on April 22nd 2014
Genres: Mental Illness, Personality, Psychology, Psychopathology, Social Psychology
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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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.From the Hardcover edition.

There are some subjects and topics that absolutely captivate me. I just find the subject so interesting that I will read whatever book on it. When The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science Of Those Without Conscience by Kent A. Kiehl, PhD crossed my email path, I absolutely knew that I had to obtain a copy of it from the Blogging For Books platform. Y’all, this book was super interesting and I found myself mostly captivated by Kiehl’s book on psychopaths. I will admit that the book had parts that were over my head as I am not great at understand graphics and science diagrams, however, it’s still a decent read if you are interested in things like abnormal psychology.

The Psychopath Whisperer opens up with a bit of biographic sketch on the author, Kiehl. It talks about how he grew up in the same neighborhood as Ted Bundy and went to the best private school in his state. Then he goes onto college on a football scholarship but after an injury goes into a life of academics and pursues his passion of learning about psychopaths. The book is kind of like a memoir of Kiehl’s career. There’s a lot of the book that takes place in jails where he conducts interviews as a doctoral student and then as postdoctoral student. There’s lots about MRI machines. There’s also plenty of anecdotes in The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science Of Those Without Conscience where Kiehl discusses things like Hare’s psychopath test where people rate twenty attributes and depending on the score – they may or may not be a psychopath. It’s actually quite fascinating.

To be quite honest, I felt like I learned a fair amount from Kiehl’s book. I learned that the brains of psychopaths, that is the physiognomy of their brains is actually different from a normal brain. Their grey matter is different. I learned that psychopaths do not respond well to behavioral programs that involve punishment. Fear of punishment simply does not work for psychopaths. It’s fascinating to me — all the amount of hands on physical anatomy stuff that goes on when it comes to behavioral science. I mean, I guess I came into this book hoping for anecdotes, but got a lot of diagrams. That’s fine and all, just not entirely what I was hoping for. I will say one thing, I feel a bit more educated about psychopaths and about treatment of psychopathy.

If you like books that put science in layman’s terms with diagrams, you will enjoy The Psychopath Whisperer. For me, one thing I loved was that there was a shoutout to the area I lived in for eight years — where Kiehl gets his mobile MRI unit from. I did get a bit bored during the parts talking about acquisition of the MRI machine and the operation of the machine. For me, the best bits were the case studies. I don’t know, I guess at my core I like stories better than I do procedure — if that makes sense to you.

Who Should Read This Book?

  • People who like behavioral science
  • Anyone who is interested in criminology
  • Those who are into abnormal psychology
  • People who enjoy books that are a mash-up of memoir and topical study

About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I’m a huge fan of crazy, so this sounds excellent. Thanks for the suggestion!
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