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The Psychopath Whisperer, by Kent Kiehl PhD, explores the behavior of psychopaths

Written by the leading scientist in the field of criminal psychopathy

The Psychopath Whisperer, by Kent Kiehl PhD, explores the behavior of psychopaths

The Psychopath Whisperer

Kent Kiehl, PhD
  • Imprint: Crown Publishers
  • On sale: April 22, 2014
  • Price: $26.00
  • Pages: 304
  • ISBN: 9780770435844
Contact: Rachel Rokicki

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

 Kirkus Reviews

“Neuroscience, Kiehl concludes, has the potential to change the judicial experience of psychopaths and our own concepts of free well. With such observations, this book may allow psychopaths to transition from a cultural spectacle to suffering individuals that might, in no small part due to efforts like Kiehl’s, be able to receive help.”

 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.”

 —John Seabrook, The New Yorker

“A must read! Dr. Kiehl’s stories about psychopaths are as authentic as can be…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
“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 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…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

From Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Whitey Bulger to portrayals of psychopaths in television and film—Dexter, Hannibal, Kalifornia, The Silence of the Lambs, and Changeling—psychopaths captivated us.  But what do we really know about them?  How can we understand their actions?

In THE PSYCHOPATH WHISPERER: The Science of Those Without Conscience (Crown; April 22, 2014), Dr. Kent Kiehl, one of the world’s leading researchers into psychopaths, recounts his two decades working with

psychopaths and studying their brain processes.  Kiehl, who designed the world’s first mobile fMRI system to study psychopaths in prison populations, has collected the world’s largest repository of brain scans from psychopaths and violent criminals, interviewing and testing the brains of more than five hundred psychopaths and over three thousand criminal offenders. He has authored more than one hundred and twenty-five peer-reviewed publications and currently directs five major National Institute of Health funded projects in adolescent and adult psychopathy. He has appeared on NPR, been profiled by The New Yorker, and has written for publications such as Scientific American Mind.

In THE PSYCHOPATH WHISPERER, Kiehl explores the science of psychopathy, drawing on his extensive experience and his own original research to illuminate the mind and brain of psychopaths and to answer such fundamental questions as: Are psychopaths shaped by their environment and upbringing?  Or are they innately born with the traits? Kiehl argues that the answers lie in understanding the differences in brain structure and function. Over the next ten years, Kiehl follows the bread crumbs of scientific evidence as he peers into the brains of psychopaths through sophisticated fMRI images, all the while weaving fascinating stories of the first-person interviews he has conducted, taking readers into the prisons to meet some of the most dangerous individuals in the world. Throughout THE PSYCHOPATH WHISPERER, Kent intersperses the compelling case studies of two boys, both of whom have highly disruptive childhoods, and seem to be on a path to full blown psychopathy.

Kiehl explains that for the first one-hundred and fifty years of studying psychopaths, experts didn’t have a solid diagnostic instrument to assess individuals.  It was only with the Psychopathy Checklist, created in 1991 by Dr. Robert Hare, Kiehl’s mentor that scientists have had a diagnostic tool that has served as the gold standard for psychopathy. The checklist includes twenty traits of socially deviant behavior, including pathological lying; lack of empathy, guilt, and remorse; grandiose sense of self-worth; manipulation; and failure to accept one’s actions, among others. To help readers understand how scientists score psychopath traits Kiehl scores two notorious presidential assassins (John Wilkes Booth and Charles Julius Guiteau) in complete detail. The reader will come away with an understanding of how scientists score psychopathic traits as well as how to recognize psychopathic traits in those outside of prison. Among the questions Kiehl poses about psychopaths in the book are: Is a person who scores high on the Psychopathy Checklist but who isn’t a full-blown psychopath dangerous? What percentage of the general population suffers from psychopathy? What do you do if you discover your roommate or romantic interest has traits that define a psychopath?

THE PSYCHOPATH WHISPERER offers an array of startling facts throughout the book, such as the fact that:

  • 70% of psychopaths in the U.S. are incarcerated
  • One in four maximum-security inmates is a psychopath
  • Psychopaths are six times likelier than other criminals to commit new crimes after release from prison
  • Incarceration in a maximum security juvenile prison can cost $514,000 per youth, per year
  • The cost of crime in the U.S. is $3.2 trillion per year—greater than expenditures for all health care

A compelling narrative of cutting-edge science, THE PSYCHOPATH WHISPERER will open your eyes to a dark and terrifying world that most of us know little about—but with which we have a helpless fascination. I look forward to discussing this meticulously researched book with you.

KENT A. KIEHL, PhD, is the executive science officer of the nonprofit Mind Research Network and a professor of psychology, neuroscience, and law at the University of New Mexico. Previously, he was a professor at Yale University in the departments of psychiatry and psychology, as well as the director of the Clinical Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the Institute of Living. Dr. Kiehl’s PhD adviser was Dr. Robert Hare, the creator of the Psychopathy Checklist. Kiehl lectures to state and federal judges, lawyers, correctional officials, and lay audiences about the intersection of neuroscience and the law. Visit or

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