"I bully them intellectually, or I manipulate them." - Jim Fallon
Airdate: 
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - 20:30
Channel: 
SBS

This week, Insight meets a self-proclaimed psychopath.

Jim Fallon is a US-based neuroscientist. In a weird coincidence at work several years ago, Jim says he accidentally discovered that his own brain scans showed identical activity to that of a psychopath.

His wife’s reaction? "It doesn't surprise me," she said.

Jim says he has many psychopathic traits: he’s a risk taker, charming, narcissistic, manipulative and feels no remorse. But Jim says he’s a 'pro-social" psychopath, so he’s rarely acted violently. He says his happy childhood is probably what prevented him from becoming violent.

This week, Jim faces questions from world experts in psychopathy, host Jenny Brockie and Insight’s studio audience to discuss his self-diagnosis and to broadly discuss empathy (or lack of it).

Presenter: Jenny Brockie 
Producer: Luan McKenna 
Associate Producer: Amanda Xiberras 

Join the discussion by using the #insightsbs hashtag on Twitter, posting on our Facebook page

Web Extra

When assessing for psychopathy, experts say they try to look for a lack of empathy. There are several online personality tests which purport to assess your level of empathy. Here are two you can try:

1 . Empathy test

This is a combined version of Simon Baron-Cohen's Empathising Quotient (EQ) and Systemising Quotient (SQ) tests.

There are 120 statements which you have to rate and will take approximately 10 to 20 minutes to complete. Click here to have a go.

2. Harvard Empathy Eye Test

This quiz looks at how well you can read the emotions of others by looking at their eyes.

You will be shown 37 pictures with just the eyes of people's faces and will be asked to guess what emotions they are showing.

This will take around 10 minutes to complete. Keen? You can try it here.

Transcript

JENNY BROCKIE: Welcome everybody, good to have you with us tonight and welcome to you Jim Fallon?

 

JIM FALLON, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA: Thank you Jenny.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: How did you discover you might be a psychopath?

 

JIM FALLON: Well, it was quite by accident and complete serendipity. We were doing a series of studies on schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease and other things and at the same time I was, since about 1992, looking at the PET scans and the FMRI scans of murderers, serial killers, murderers and I did one or two a year and it was"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: These are brain scans?

 

JIM FALLON: These are brain cans and my job was to look at the pattern of activity, loss of activity, higher activity, lower activity of the brain to see if there was damage. And I saw a pattern that was kind of common to all of the ones who were psychopaths.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: You're a neuroscientist?

 

JIM FALLON: I'm a neuroscientist, just a hack neuroscientist and so at the same time we were doing a study in Alzheimer's disease and we had all the subjects now but we needed a couple of controls so I volunteered in our own study for it because we needed to get it done quickly. I went in, because I'm a normal, and when the scans came back and I went through them, and I got to the bottom and there was one that was very pathological and I told the technician, I said you've got these switched in the wrong pile.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Had the wrong one?

 

JIM FALLON: It was very obviously one of the psychopaths. It was very clear and I peeled back the, you know, the covering on it because we do it blindly and it was me. And you know, Gandoff had showed up and I was it and so that's when I really started on this whole trajectory.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: I am a psychopath?

 

JIM FALLON: I guess, yeah.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: What did you first think when you realised it was you?

 

JIM FALLON: When I was sitting there with the technicians I just laughed and I just kind of blew it off. And they kind of chuckled nervously too but I didn't think of anything. You know, after a couple of weeks I brought the scans home and I showed, I mentioned to my wife, I said there's a curious thing. I said I just did, you know, scans for this Alzheimer's study and my PET scan came back and I looked just like the psychopaths I've been studying and she said something very odd to me at the time she said: "It doesn't surprise me." Now you've got to understand, now this"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Let's get to that in a moment. I want to have a look, I want to, because that's really interesting, I want to know more your wife but let's have a look at the scan. You've put together this picture of two scans?

 

JIM FALLON: Yes.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Now that's your brain, that psychopath one, is that right?

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah, that looks like all the fundamental pattern of all the psychopaths I've been studying and that happens to be my scan.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: What does it show, explain what it shows?

 

JIM FALLON: Well this is, as you're looking at it, it's a slice like this done electronically and looking through what's called the medial surface of the hemisphere and in red are those areas of the brain that are highly active and in the blue and green and black it's where there's very low activity.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Now those scans were taken while the people who those brains belong to were exposed to images, is that right?

 

JIM FALLON: Right, exactly.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So see how the brain functions?

 

JIM FALLON: Right and in this case we're looking at a mix of pictures that were neutral, you know, roses, a cat, a dog, you know, pretty neutral okay pictures and ones that are really violent and ones that are supposed to provoke emotion or empathy too. Now in the normal person it activates almost the entire cortex like you see there in the reds and yellows and groans on the left. That's very normal pattern. And mine you can see that there's a lot of reds and yellows but all up here is what is called the social part of the brain, if you look at it specifically those areas that are turned off are ones having to do with integrating your intellectual world, okay, with your emotional world, but also how you deal with people and also, you can't quite see it is the area having to do with empathy. The area having to do with emotional empathy which is the kind of empathy you want when you're in a family, when you love somebody, it's that connectedness and you're feeling what other people are feeling.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: You haven't got that?

 

JIM FALLON: That's like zero so when I looked carefully at this, I knew what those areas did but I still, at the time we were so busy, we had a stem cell company, we were trying to get these papers on Alzheimer's out and schizophrenia"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: You were too busy to look into the fact that you might be a psychopath?

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah, yeah, because I thought to myself, I haven't murdered or raped anybody, A, and B, well maybe the theory's wrong, you know, maybe the theory's wrong.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Did you believe you were responding the way a normal person responded up to that point when you saw that scan?

 

JIM FALLON: Pretty much, yeah. I didn't think, I pretty much what you say would be a regular guy.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So why did your wife say it didn't surprise her?

 

JIM FALLON: Well, I mean she is a very tolerant person and she knows some of my behaviours which a lot of women would not tolerate.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Such as?

 

JIM FALLON: Well, I'm a flirt plus and I'm also - the things I do with my family and friends I put them in a lot of danger and she just thinks it's like, it’s over the top stuff.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Such as?

 

JIM FALLON: Well, you know, for me, you know, I have to run with the bulls in Pamplona but it's not enough, I have to bring my kids in with me, that sort of thing.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Well you took your children skiing in shark infested waters?

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah, I mean we have a boat and I said you want to have some real fun? I wasn't trying to kill them, I was trying to, you know, see much thrill they like because that's what I did. I always did this stuff and so I would take the choice of rather swimming with sharks than swim, you know, water skiing with them in a lake. Something that my brother reminded me of, and I lived in East Africa and I used to go out into the wild on safaris and everything, but I took them to a place called the Acetum Caves which is where the Ebola virus, the deadly virus that you bleed out from, where the guy got it. And so I said do you want to go up and see the elephants? So I brought him there, we built a fire and all night there's all these animals around, it was a great thrill and he was like this.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Why was it a thrill?

 

JIM FALLON: To be at night with a fire, with the lions around you and everything.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And the Ebola virus potentially around you as well?

 

JIM FALLON: I don't know, I just, I've always liked that, those high risk things. That's how I get a buzz I guess.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Did your brother know?

 

JIM FALLON: No. Here's the problem. So when we went into the caves and I knew it had something to do with the bat droppings harbouring it, I said just don't touch anything. Well about two years later the film with Dustin Hoffman came out and he called me and he said: "You SOB, he said you knew it. You took me to that cave where was Ebola virus and all those animals, the whole thing." I said: "Did you have fun?" He said it was thrilling but he said I can't - he never really quite trusted me again. But the ideas, I don't send people into that stuff, I do it with them.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: You lured them in by going to in yourself.

 

JIM FALLON: Yes, the problem is I don't always tell them the dangers. You know, I'm not trying to hurt them, it's not that.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: I'm interested in the way that you say I'm a funny guy, I'm a nice guy?

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: I mean people told you once you told them about this scan that they saw you as cold and manipulative.

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah, now this is, whenever you get the idea of asking everybody what they really think of you, don't do it. And so I had let a couple of years go by and I happened to be giving a talk in Oslo with the ex-Prime Minister who had bipolar disorder and I gave a talk to with him over the science of bipolar disorder and I know I've always been a hypo-manic, you probably tell the way I'm excitedly talking, I'm trying to slow down so I've always had that and I've always been - people know I'm narcissistic, but that was it. But I talked to the psychiatrist there afterwards, at a party afterwards, and they said you're probably a borderline psychopath, you know.

That was the first time I took it seriously because these were people who didn't know me but saw the biological data and the psychiatric data and that's when I took it seriously. Because the science backed it up and when so I went home I immediately started asking psychiatrists and psychologists who knew me really well and my family, tell me what you really think of me.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And what did they say?

 

JIM FALLON: Well, the psychiatrist first because a lot of them know all of my behaviours and they said remember when you did this thing? You know, you blew off this talk, you blew up this thing to party or something, that was psychopathic. One of them asked me, said well do you ever get angry? And I said of course but nobody ever knows it - I never show anybody, I just don't have, I've never had the tells. And so I don't get anxious when confronted by what I've done or anything like that. And"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So you get angry inside?

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah, and I just don't show it. People never know when I'm furious and so he says well, do you ever get even? I said yeah, maybe, six months, three years later, and they never know what hit them and I never do it when I'm emotionally charged.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So you calculate?

 

JIM FALLON: Very much so.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, and you wait three years to get back at someone.

 

JIM FALLON: Two or three years and they never know what hit them, especially if they surprise me I surprise them back.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: How do you feel after you do that?

 

JIM FALLON: Well justice had been done, that's all, I don't have any emotional relief. It's not, you know I don't - it just"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So it's cold?

 

JIM FALLON: It's pretty cold, yeah.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Have you ever acted violently?

 

JIM FALLON: Have, well, have I ever acted, you mean out of the context of "¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: I just mean violently?

 

JIM FALLON: Well, you know, all through high school and college I've was a wrestler and I was football player.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: But were you violent?

 

JIM FALLON: No, no.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Did you hit people, did you ever hurt people.

 

JIM FALLON: No, the only people I ever gave trouble to were like bullies, I always hated bullies growing up.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And what did you do to them?

 

JIM FALLON: I lifted them up and told them they I was going to kill them if they didn't stop, things like that, and they stopped. And I had a lot of friends too so nobody ever really messed with me at all.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Well lifting someone up is pretty persuasive?

 

JIM FALLON: It is, but you know, you see somebody bullying somebody, that's the one thing that got to me.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Were you a bully?

 

JIM FALLON: Well I never thought of myself as a bully at all and in the past few years, in thinking about it, I realise I bully them intellectually, or I manipulate them, and so I don't physically do it. To me, to physically bully somebody is for losers, it's just like lying is for losers. The way you manipulate is with the truth and with persuasion. And about all of it and it's just a game I've always played and one of the psychiatrists pointed out and said this is a form of bullying.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: When people hear the word psychopath they equate it with violence.

 

JIM FALLON: Mm-mmm.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: I asked you if you'd acted violently?

 

JIM FALLON: Right.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Do you want to act violently and stop yourself?

 

JIM FALLON: Oh, sure, I have the urge to, you know, I think I have, you can see it in the psychiatric reports, that I have - I think those urges but I have a lot of control over my behaviour.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And why do you think you have that and other people who would be regarded as psychopaths don't?

 

JIM FALLON: And it's a great question. The answer is I don't know why that is true, you know when I was young I had obsessive compulsive disorder full blown and I learnt to be very exact and precise and very patterned about my behaviour. This was the world I lived in, I was very obsessive about fairness and equality and all this, but in crazy ways and so, I think I learned a lot of behavioural controls from, I think, that obsessiveness. I don't know, I'm trying to, I'm trying to create a story about something we really don't know about, yeah.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: I'm interested that you say you grew up in a very loving family and you attribute part of the reason you are, you describe yourself as a pro social psychopath?

 

JIM FALLON: Mm-mmm. Well, when I was, this was about two, two and a half years ago, I was trying to figure out what was missing. I knew from the work of others coming in that if, you know, kids who had these combinations who were also abused, it boded very poorly for them. So you're not born a psychopath but kind of the gun is loaded with the genetics and with the brain pattern and then if they're activated with the early abuse or abandonment or violence.

 

And I was sitting in my Jacuzzi one day and my mother was there, she came over because she loves to come over, we cook together and she was gardening and she was sitting on this three legged stool and I was looking at her and I said that's it, I had a wonderful upbringing and right in the middle of when I was writing this book about two years ago I was up in the mountains in northern Italy and I saw a couple of papers about the genes that I have that are these high risk sort of warrior genes, but these papers showed that in monkeys and humans, that if you treat those kids with a lot of love, it kind of offsets a lost the negative. I said that's it. That was the real aha moment and really, it changed my thinking and made a scientific sort of finding.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Simon Baron-Cohen in Cambridge, welcome to Insight. Now you've studied psychopaths, does Jim's description of himself as a pro social psychopath stack up, do you think?

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN, CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY: I've been listening to Jim's story and I have to have to say I've got some scepticism, some questions I guess, I guess one of the questions is about the reliability of the brain scans. You as a scientist know that we wouldn't just trust one piece of data?

 

JIM FALLON: Right.

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: When you saw this brain scan where basically a lot of frontal lobe activity seems to be missing or absent compared to a control, did you try to replicate it, to repeat it?

 

JIM FALLON: Well we're doing FRMI experiments so what I did with the FRMI with a different technique and different - and I got into the scanner and they laid me out.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Is this the first scan or is this a repeat scan?

 

JIM FALLON: This is later, I got in the scanner and part of pulled me back on the gurney, I got stuck, I was actually bigger than I am now if you imagine and I got stuck and my legs were stretched and I couldn't get in.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: But this is years ago that you had the original scan, I mean how many years ago is it.

 

JIM FALLON: This was back in 2005, 2006.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: 2005 you got the results?

 

JIM FALLON: 2006.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So it's nine years later and you still haven't done a second scan?

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Why not?

 

JIM FALLON: I don't, you know, well part of this is what I did then went through a number of analyses by psychoanalysts, by psychiatrists on psychopathy and took a number of the tests, PPI, which is a psychopathy index, and also the hair test and Levenson test and some others and they all came out with about the same answer - they would say I'm a borderline psychopath. So it was really that analysis, psychiatric analyses that was the thing.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, Simon I think wants to follow up, yeah?

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: Sure. So I mean one issue is in science is you want repeatability. If the first scan was PET then the second one should also be PET under the same conditions. You know about all this.

 

JIM FALLON: Yes. Well the answer to that Simon is that we've switched over completely for the past five years to FRMI. The PET scanner was a HRT, we don't do those any more. I could have it done at another place so that's a possibility.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, but Simon is the point that you're making, are you therefore sceptical of this whole story? I mean what is the point that you're making?

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: Well, my point is first of all that scientists are trained to be sceptics so you have to forgive me for taking that approach.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: No, it's not a criticism. I'm just seeking a clarification from you of what you think.

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: So, you know, the second thing I'm listening to is does Jim's sort of description of his behaviour, does that add up to being a psychopath? And actually all I could hear was first of all, as a young guy but also maybe even today, you're a bit of a risk taker and you like sensation, you're a sensation seeker - maybe a slight edge of irresponsibility taking your kids into dangerous situations or taking your brother into dangerous situations.

But you know, so far what we've heard is about a personality style which is where you seek thrills or excitement and a lot of people are like that, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're a psychopath. It just means that they are more extrovert and need a higher level of stimulation. But you know, that could describe half the population. Let's assume this brain scan is reliable and, you know, you can repeat it. You know, to what extent is it specific to psychopaths or might I see the same pattern for let's say extroverts, or people with OCD? You mentioned as a kid you had OCD?

 

JIM FALLON: Sure, I think this is a lot of my behaviours are, are at the, are normal, at the edge of normal. People who know me well, they would claim that I have no scruples. There are behaviours that I'm not going to talk about here, you know.

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: Sure.

 

JIM FALLON: My mother's alive, my wife's alive, my kids and grandkids alive so there are a lot of things that you and I would agree on that I'm not going to tell.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Can you give us an idea of the sort of the things you're talking about?

 

JIM FALLON: The first thing is I have never thought I was a psychopath. So I kind of came kicking and screaming from people, professionals and people close to me. The point is I would never use a scan, a PET scan or FRMI to say this person's a psychopath and I've argued against this in Courts, law schools and everything, or the genetics. You can't even put them together. So I'm very much against that. You can't use it. It's only - the only thing is the main thing is the diagnosis.

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: We agree on that?

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah, absolutely. The diagnosis"¦

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: So we agree that the brain scan is not diagnostic?

 

JIM FALLON: Oh, no but it helps, it helped explain, when I saw the brain scan, I just thought I'm just a party guy and impulsive and irresponsible, that's exactly what I thought. Exactly what you're saying and it wasn't until"¦

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: Sure.

 

JIM FALLON: "¦ the professionals around me said that is not it.

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: I think probably you and I would agree that psychiatry is not in great shape?

 

JIM FALLON: Right.

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: You get a lot of disagreement between psychiatrists as to what is the right diagnosis. Psychiatry can be a lot about opinion rather than sort of factual"¦

 

JIM FALLON: Completely, yeah.

 

PROFESSORSIMON BARON-COHEN: Objective sort of consensus.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So Simon, does this all mean that you don't buy Jim's self-diagnosis, is that what it means?

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: You know, I haven't heard anything to indicate that Jim is a violent guy. You know, I'd be very happy to have him living next door.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay.

 

PROFESSORSIMON BARON-COHEN: So, you know, and I'd also say that if Jim was in my clinic, I'd notice that he enjoys talking about himself. He's quite self-focused and maybe what we're seeing in the brain scan is a guy who's more focused on himself than on other people, so that's the empathy issue, but I wouldn't sort of equate that with him being a psychopath.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay.

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: A pro social one.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: We're going to move on. Eva, you work with kids who show disturbing traits. Now I wonder what you think of Jim's story as you hear it?

 

EVA KIMONIS, UNIVERSITY OF NSW: Well I did want to follow up on you know how we might, how we would diagnosis psychopathy is we would use the most commonly used tool is called the psychopathy check list. It's a check list of 20 different items and they cover a broad spectrum of different sorts of characteristics. The four primary areas, so the first being is there a deficient affective experience so is the person kind of emotionally detached from other people? Are they looking empathy? Are they callous? The second domain would be in their interpersonal styles, are they manipulative or arrogant or deceitful. The third area would be in reckless impulsivity or irresponsibility and then the fourth domain which is a bit more of a controversial domain in the field is antisocial and criminal types of behaviour.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And how high do you have to rate, how high do you have to rate on this scale?

 

EVA KIMONIS: The way that you use the tool in the field is that focus on a score of 30 out of 40.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So you have to hit 30 out of the 40 to be qualified, to be categorised as a psychopath?

 

EVA KIMONIS: That’s how it’s most commonly used, right.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: You did this test Jim?

 

JIM FALLON: Yes, I've done four different of those and I scored"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: What did you get out of 40?

 

JIM FALLON: I'm a 20. I had to, I was a 24 once when I was tested but one of them had to do with early criminality and so when I was young I used to make pipe bombs and blow them up, we used to steal cars and break into houses and everything, but at the time we always would bring the cars back, we always made sure nobody got hurt.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So 20 out of 40 though, how would you regard that Eva?

 

EVA KIMONIS: It wouldn't be considered to be in the psychopathic range, no.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Lars, you're a forensic and clinical psychologist, you assess violent criminals. What is a psychopath, in your view, the people that you see?

 

LARS MADSEN, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY CENTRE: Well, firstly I, you know, go by their interpersonal style with me. So some folks can be very, very charming, engaging, glib, superficial, can tell a very plausible story. Then usually I will take a"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: I'm just have a quiet look at you over there. Yeah, go on.

 

LARS MADSEN: Didn't go unnoticed. But of course then I would look at their history and usually folks are very highly psychopathic, have completely disorganised histories, had lots of impulsive reckless and dangerous behaviours and, you know, it's a bit of a mess really. And then you will spend time talking to them about how they feel about it. How they feel about the things that they've done to other people and their life and that kind of thing.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So what are the key things do you think, like what are the aha moments for you when you talk to these people and you think this person actually does, to my mind, fit that category of being a psychopath?

 

LARS MADSEN: Well it would definitely be the cold heartedness, the callousness, the lack of empathy is something that's very important, and the history, the disorganised history, the lots of irresponsible behaviour, the chaoticness usually, the inability to follow through with commitments and responsibilities, the letting people down, exploiting people, manipulating people.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So what do you want to know from Jim?

 

LARS MADSEN: Well there lots of questions I could ask Jim. I guess I'd be interested to get your perspective in terms of what you think might be useful in terms of trying to engage psychopaths in meaningful behaviour change.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Like you changing?

 

JIM FALLON: Well my response to finding out from people close to me, and these are people very, very close, we're talking about kids and siblings and everything and they said - I provide all the love and you're just not connected and my wife said the same thing, you just not there. And it's not something..

 

JENNY BROCKIE: How long have you been married?

 

JIM FALLON: Well we started dating when we were twelve and we're 66 now so we've been dating for how many - what's that? 54 years so she knows"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So she's saying after 54 years you're not connected?

 

JIM FALLON: She says I'm very abnormal. She's says but I'm fun to be with and I hang around fun people and it's interesting. She finds it an interesting life and but in terms of emotional connection, she says just not there.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And what about your connection to her?

 

JIM FALLON: I think it's fine. But you know, from inside I'm okay, you know, I'm not a categorical psychopath or anything, but if you're looking at traits, are traits there. I also started to say I could beat this, I've been doing this for a little over two years, how I treat my wife. I start with my wife and I said every time I had some little micro behaviour. You know, who do you pour the wine for first? Now then it went to larger things, for example when your aunt dies you're supposed to go to the funeral, you're not supposed to go with your buddies to a bar and I'd make up a story and do that stuff.

I try to use my own traits, my own narcissism, my own ego to say I can beat this. I'm better than them, I can beat this and I can change myself. So I just tried to play that game and I'm still doing it. The thing I don't understand is when my wife after two months she said what's gotten into you? And I said you know it's not, it's not sincere, I'm just doing this as a game and they said they didn't care.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: But why are you trying if you haven't got empathy? Why you bothering to try?

 

JIM FALLON: Well I mean I must have something, right? It's not sincere that I really want to do it or care about it. But I am sincere about trying to change my behaviour.

 

LARS MADSEN: So it's like a game?

 

JIM FALLON: It's an absolute game.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Lars, you had another question about spotting vulnerability in people?

 

LARS MADSEN: Yes, and a lot of my clients that I end up working with talk about their capacity to notice vulnerability in people and to hone in on it. I guess I was going to ask you Jim whether you feel that you're good at that?

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah, well"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So do you hone in on vulnerable people, or vulnerability?

 

JIM FALLON: The immediate thing I look for is what are their weaknesses? Now and maybe some of you saw me looking around the room"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And did you do that with me?

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah, of course.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And what did you decide?

 

JIM FALLON: You don't have many. You're as tough as they come. I know your sign, it's keep off the grass.

 

LARS MADSEN: Charming Jim, isn't he?

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Yes, but charm is part of profile, right?

 

JIM FALLON: But you know, I'm part of some organisations where I'm brought in to see if people have some tells.. You know, how they use their eyes, how they look through you, how they use their hands up here.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: I'm more interested in your life and the way that you use it in your life and I think that's Lars' question, isn't it? Do you use that, you said you look for weakness so obviously you do.

 

JIM FALLON: No.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: What do you do with that?

 

JIM FALLON: I don't act on it. The thing I might do is"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Why do you want to know then?

 

JIM FALLON: It's just a natural thing, I've always done that. Here's what I would use it for, typically. Let's say we met at a bar or at a party, I would try to size that person up and not just vulnerable people but I look for people, you know, it's just a game and then engage them and try to get them to buy into my world. Okay? That's it. That's the make.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Simon, what did you want to say?

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: I'm struck by the fact that when Jim was doing his apparently anti-social things as teenager like stealing cars and he also made sure that nobody got hurt, so my question is Jim have you actually ever hurt anybody and if you did hurt people, a person, you know, would it bother you?

 

JIM FALLON: Well, yes, I have and it - would it bother me?

 

JENNY BROCKIE: How badly did you hurt a person?

 

JIM FALLON: Oh, breaking legs and stuff like that, nothing serious.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: In a fight?

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah, mixing it up, yeah, yeah.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: I want to know why you broke this person's legs and how you felt after you broke them.

 

JIM FALLON: Well it was a bully so I didn't feel bad.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Did you feel anything?

 

JIM FALLON: No.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Nothing at all?

 

JIM FALLON: No, I mean it was justice had been done, this person was bothering people so I figured they had, you know, this was justice.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Simon, what did you want to know?

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: I'm very impressed by Jim's quite high levels of justice, he's got a kind of morality, so to me that doesn't quite fit with the psychopathic kind of self-diagnosis. The other issue is about playing the game. You know, you've mentioned a few times that you like to put on, you know, to get people to come into your game and then to kind of deceive them, but I'm kind of wondering are we part of a big game right now?

 

JENNY BROCKIE: I was go to ask that question too. I was going to ask you exactly the same question?

 

JIM FALLON: What do you think?

 

JENNY BROCKIE: What do you think? You're not answering the question?

 

JIM FALLON: Well, I can tell you what I think.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Is it a game?

 

JIM FALLON: My natural, my natural instinct is to make this a game so I'm very much trying not to make it a game but almost any situation like this it would be a game. I'm cognisant of that now. I've been outed, I outed myself and so I've got to watch it and it's the game is more with me now than anybody else.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: But if you're a narcissist, then being on television, having the immense amount of publicity that you've had around your book, about your claim that you're a psychopath and so on"¦

 

JIM FALLON: Sure.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Suits you down to the ground?

 

JIM FALLON: I don't know if you'd, I think I'd rather become famous in a different way than this, you know?

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Really?

 

JIM FALLON: Through my science, well sure, I get a lot of, we made some breakthroughs science wise, that's where I get my biggest thing, discovering something scientifically, you know, that's a tremendous rush.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: But Ted talks and you know, endless interviews?

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah, yeah.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And appearing with people from Breaking Bad and talking to people about psychopathy and becoming an expert about psychopathy, I mean that all suits you?

 

JIM FALLON: Well the first thing is I don't make the phone calls. I'm called so I don't have, you know, the people reaching out to do it.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: You wrote the book?

 

JIM FALLON: I wrote the book.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: The Psychopathic Inside?

 

JIM FALLON: But I was called to do this and I was, you know, all these things I don't ask but I don't fight it, I do it happily. So I'm a narcissist but it's not really a planned thing, it was a spontaneous, it's really an endless series of spontaneous things like this.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Reaction from people?

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: Nothing that I've heard would rule out Asperger's syndrome and you know, again it's not a diagnostic, none of these things are diagnostic.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Simon, one of the key features of psychopaths is a lack of empathy and it's been mentioned a little bit here. Can you briefly describe the different types of empathy to us and what happens when people lack it?

 

PROFESSORSIMON BARON-COHEN: Sure. I mean for the sake of keeping thing short and brief, I would just divide empathy into two components. So one is cognitive empathy, which is the ability to put yourself into someone else's shoes, to imagine what they're thinking and feeling and typically psychopaths have good cognitive empathy. The other side of it is affective empathy or emotional empathy which is the, it's not just recognising someone else's thoughts and feelings but having an appropriate emotion yourself in response to someone's thoughts and feelings. And typically a psychopath has reduced affective or emotional empathy.

I mentioned Asperger's syndrome a moment ago because, they kind of have the opposite profile to psychopaths because they struggle with cognitive empathy. They get quite confused by social situations and taking other people's points of view. But if they hear that somebody else is upset or if they hear that somebody else is suffering it upsets them and actually, you know, just like Jim wanted to go and have revenge on the bully, someone with Asperger's syndrome would also get equally incensed because they can see that somebody else is getting hurt.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Now Linda, I know you've come along because you're interested in this, you've got Asperger's?

 

LINDA WEMYSS: Yes.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And does that description fit you, the description that Simon just gave?

 

LINDA WEMYSS: I have a lot of emotional empathy.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: But you struggle with cognitive empathy?

 

LINDA WEMYSS: Yes.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So how does that, what does that mean for you in your life? Give us an example of where you have difficulty?

 

LINDA WEMYSS: I'm not very good at a bar. I struggle with trying to understand what people are thinking or the innate social graces, I guess, that most people sort of learn as a child or are born with. I just don't have them.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, but you have very high affective empathy, how does that show itself?

 

LINDA WEMYSS: If somebody's going through a hard time, I go through that with them - like I'm in that time with them as well - like it's my experience as well.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: What do you like watching the news?

 

LINDA WEMYSS: Not very good, I don't watch it very often.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Why?

 

LINDA WEMYSS: I cry.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So are you interested in Jim's story, I mean what are you interested in about him?

 

LINDA WEMYSS: How we seem to be complete opposites from what I've read so far. So I seem to have an awesome amount of one type of empathy and next to none of the other and Jim seems to be the opposite of that. So I'm just interested in how that works.

 

JIM FALLON: If somebody tells me a very upsetting story, where they see awful things, I just don't have emotional response, I don't cry, I don't feel it, my heart doesn't flutter, I don't feel any of that, but I still am interested to try to help them if I can, you know what I mean?

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Why?

 

LINDA WEMYSS: For me it hurts me, like I literally hurt when somebody else hurts. So I don't get why would you do that?

 

JIM FALLON: I think it's the right thing to do, goodness is just aesthetically beautiful. It's just a matter of aesthetics, you know, it's the right thing to do in term of you see a flower and you say that's beautiful. But I don't get emotionally engaged but I know what's right and what's wrong and I know, but for me the good is the beauty of it.

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: This is where it doesn't fit into being a psychopath. You know, I think you do have a very strong sense of morality which, thank goodness, right? You like to help people, you like to fix people's problems.

 

NEIL JEYASINGAM, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY: Sorry, could I?

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Yes.

 

NEIL JEYASINGAM: There's a lot of talk we got into the diagnosis and definitions and we're not dealing with outright active axe murderer right here, we're dealing with a person.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Just as well.

 

NEIL JEYASINGAM: Possibly. We're dealing with a person who has been diagnosed as a borderline psychopath who rejected that diagnosis from multiple peers who have used independent objective rating systems. He has also responded to this with a means of self-searching using his neuroscience background so we're seeing a person who has gone through nine years of adjusting to his own behavioural issues. Now the definition problem comes into the concept of psychopathy.

Psychopathy has two definitions, one of them is the social perspective of a bad dangerous person who doesn't care about other people, doesn't have morals, or a very loose definition which actually is an end product of all sorts of different things, whether there's a lack of emotionality, whether there's criminality, whether there's genetic contributions or a contribution of all these. Your story contributes very well to what I would say from a lay definition of a borderline psychopath.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Now you're a psychiatrist, right?

 

NEIL JEYASINGAM: Yes.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Just so everyone knows.

 

NEIL JEYASINGAM: Sorry, yeah, if I wasn't that would all sound terrible. I had, I had two questions for you though based on that. Firstly, would you throw your kids into shark infested waters again?

 

JIM FALLON: No.

 

NEIL JEYASINGAM: Secondly.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Why not?

 

JIM FALLON: Why wouldn't I? No, it's - I don't know, I just wouldn't do it. You know.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Why?

 

JIM FALLON: Well, why? I don't want them to die. They"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: But you say you don't care?

 

JIM FALLON: Well, that I care, I don't want my kids to die, I care about that.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: But you didn't care when you took them the first time?

 

JIM FALLON: Oh, yeah, right.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So what's changed?

 

JIM FALLON: Well I'm trying to monitor my thoughts and any emotions as I'm doing things that are potentially like that. Well I think partially since I broadcast this, everybody knows my game. It's pointless - it's a pointless game now.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: I'm so interested you use that word.

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah, it's a pointless game and it's a pointless exercise so I kind of just do the stuff myself now, right?

 

JENNY BROCKIE: You had a second question?

 

NEIL JEYASINGAM: Yes. I noticed that even before we started taping you have a very extremely well developed sense of humour, when you make a person laugh, how do you feel?

 

JIM FALLON: When I make - well there's different things. If I were to make some spontaneous thing happened, I would just be like a joyous thing, you know, just a buzz, but part of a broader thing is that I'm trying to, I think, still control people with humour. I know how to be funny and I use it to disarm people and bring them on when I want to convince them as something.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Why are you asking the question?

 

NEIL JEYASINGAM: Because you're partially treated. You have partial insight into a lot of your past behaviours and by means of replicating normal social behaviours you have started to learn some of the underlying cognitions. You're not fully there but you're also probably a far away way from where things were nine years ago.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: How do you think you'd feel if your wife was really ill and suffering?

 

JIM FALLON: If she was ill and suffering? Well I don't like to see, first of all anybody ill and suffering. You know, if my wife"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: How you would feel though?

 

JIM FALLON: Well I'd probably feel pretty bad, I would think I'd feel pretty bad and she doesn't think I'd feel as bad as you're supposed to certainly.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So would you try to fake how you felt? You talked earlier about trying to change your behaviour. Would you try to fake?

 

JIM FALLON: Well I don't think I can fake her about anything, I think I'd just come up with real things, real support things without trying to kid her about anything because I can't really kid her about anything anymore.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So do you feel that something is missing in you in terms of empathy, or do you just not feel anything?

 

JIM FALLON: No, I absolutely love my life from beginning to end and I still do. I'm just absolutely happy with who I am and I, I don't call myself a psychopath, I'm not a categorical psychopath but I have traits that are, people do not like, appreciate at all. But when I found out how people felt about me, I, you know, I honestly didn't care.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: How do you love?

 

JIM FALLON: How do I love? Well the people that I'm supposed to be loving say that I don't really love. I mean that's their report, they"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: What do they say?

 

JIM FALLON: Well they say that, well I do things with them and I'm close to them but I don't have any more of the emotional level connection with them than I might by somebody I meet - in a little bit of an emotional flat land.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Sorry, you've got a question, we'll just get a mic to you. Yeah?

 

FEMALE: Why did you marry your wife?

 

JIM FALLON: She's a hot body.

 

FEMALE: At 12?

 

JIM FALLON: Because she's adorable and - but the thing is that what got me, which still gets me, she understood things that I have never been able to understand and she understood, she had a confidence in herself.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: But how do you feel about her?

 

JIM FALLON: I think I love her more than I love anybody else.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And what does love mean, I mean, how do you – what do you think love is?

 

JIM FALLON: I don't quite know exactly what it is and, because I can love somebody, a stranger you know? I don't treat strangers poorly, I just don't treat people close to me any better than strangers. You see what I mean? It's like a flat emotional world and that was it.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So distant, everything's notional?

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah. Kind of but"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Rather than emotional?

 

JIM FALLON: That's right, you don't want to be close to me, that's the problem, okay? Getting - I'm a good stranger.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. . Oliver, you've got a question?

 

OLIVER: Earlier you described psychopaths as a sort of loaded gun and your reasoning that your gun had sort of never gone off is because everything had run really smoothly for you in your life. Do you think if everything was flipped on its head and you hit rock bottom that you could use these sort of unique traits that you have for evil rather than good?

 

JIM FALLON: I think I could go the other way because certainly the urges are there. And I don't know what would stop me at that point, I don't know. I've thought about this in the last couple of years.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Violent urges are there?

 

JIM FALLON: I have violent urges but I don't act them out. They're pointless to me. But you know, even some criminal urges and I just don't act them out.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: What sort of criminal urges?

 

JIM FALLON: Well just scams, you know, just regular scamming and I, you know for me is it's like why would you do that? I've got everything I want, it's stupid.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Robin, I know you have a question about how Jim views empathy in other people and when they express empathy to him.

 

ROBIN TCHERNOMOROFF: Yeah, How do you feel about displays of empathy that might be directed to you or even displays of empathy on a mass scale if there's a disaster? Do you judge them?

 

JIM FALLON: I don't like it. You mean emotional empathy?

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Yes, if I said to you I really feel for you Jim, missing out on that grant?

 

JIM FALLON: It would be zero to negative for me, I don't like shows of emotion toward me like that. I don't like, yeah, I would"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Do you like any shows of emotion towards you?

 

JIM FALLON: Yes, I love being showered with kisses, that's not an emotion though, is it? That's a reflection of emotion. I would say that, no, not so much. I don't care what other people think, absolutely not.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And what about caring?

 

JIM FALLON: I try to antagonise people.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And what about caring about other people though and if people suffer?

 

JIM FALLON: I know it's the right and good thing to do and so I do try to help people. Maybe it's a sort of duty. So that's for, like anybody who asks me.

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: This is where I'd like to have you living next door.

 

JIM FALLON: Well yeah, I'm the guy, anybody causes trouble I'm the guy, I'm the guy running down the street with two machetes in his underwear chasing down people who, the bad guys as it were, I'm pretty ruthless that way.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. Eva, you deal with kids that display callous and unemotional behaviour. Describe for us what those children are like?

 

EVA KIMONIS: These are kids that are telling you they don't really care about others' feelings. When they do use emotions it's usually to get things out of other people. So they may express anger to get what they want from other people.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: And how do they react to the suffering of another child, for example?

 

EVA KIMONIS: They're not actively engaged by those emotions so they're attention is not captured by seeing people hurt, sad, afraid. We know that when they do pay attention to those emotions, they can't recognise sadness and fear in other people.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: How do you treat them?

 

EVA KIMONIS: And so what we do in this therapy is we actually sit behind a one way mirror and as the therapist I have an earpiece and I'm speaking with the parent as they interact with the child in a play type of scenario. And I've taught them the skills that we want them to work on and so in vivo I'm coaching them as they try to use those skills with their child.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Glenda, I know that you were involved in a program to teach empathy in schools in Western Australia. What do you do to each empathy?

 

GLENDA CAIN, UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME: A mother and a baby come into a classroom on a regular basis, so over the time of the year we have 27 lessons but the mother visits nine times and it's a very young baby to start off with. So the baby is usually between two and four months of age and we come in and the children sit around, we have a green blanket, the children sit around the sides of it and they observe that baby and then they also connect to the emotions of the baby and each month there's a topic.

So for example there's a topic of crying, so we talk about, before the mother comes in, what's crying all about, you know, what does that mean. Then we prepare the children for the baby, the mother to visit. So the mother comes in and then we talk to the mother about the crying, you know, how does she feel when her baby cries, what does she do to help and calm that baby?

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So you're teaching the children to recognise things, to understand the significance of things?

 

GLENDA CAIN: Absolutely and then we transfer it in the following lesson to the children themselves and it's about that sense about well, if your friend was crying what might you do.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Simon, do you think empathy can be taught?

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: I think some aspects of empathy can be taught and I mean we've, for example, tried to teach emotional recognition. I think that the aspect of affective empathy, the emotional empathy, is probably much harder to foster but we're hearing some very imaginative methods being used.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Lars, violent psychopathy treatable do you think?

 

LARS MADSEN: Look, that's a really complex question.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: I think it's a question everybody would like to know.

 

LARS MADSEN: Yeah, look, I think that with folks who are diagnosed with psychopathy, you work with the individual to develop a motivation to manage the kinds of behaviours and attitudes that contributed to their violent behaviour and sometimes that just means appealing to their self-interest. So not getting in trouble with the police, not losing stuff that they want, what they have in their life.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: So the aim is to change the behaviour, not necessarily change the person?

 

LARS MADSEN: Yeah, no. In treatment you don't try to treat psychopathy, you try to treat the things that actually make a person violent or dangerous in the community.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Jim, have you sought any treatment for what you describe as your pro social psychopathy?

 

JIM FALLON: I don't think there's anything wrong with me. I don't think there's anything to treat, really. You know, I told you how I'm trying to change how I interact with people very close to me, so I'm trying to do that myself.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: What if you're wrong and you're not a psychopath at all?

 

JIM FALLON: Well I'd like Simon to change the name of my book to The Asperger's Inside rather than psychopath. I think not that I want to, right, you'd rather be like me, wouldn't you? I'm absolutely happy with this.

 

LINDA WEMYSS: There's a thing called Aspidar which people with Asperger's say we can pick each other from a mile away because we speak the same language and I'm not getting it. So I don't think there's any worry about that.

 

JIM FALLON: Yeah, I would say"¦

 

JENNY BROCKIE: What if you're wrong, where would that leave you if you were wrong?

 

JIM FALLON: Where would it leave me? Well, it would be, in what way? I'm perfectly normal.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: If you wrongly diagnosed yourself, if you've seen yourself as a psychopath?

 

JIM FALLON: Well I didn't diagnose me, it was a psychiatrists who said, you know, I'm borderline pro social so I didn't diagnose this. It would mean they're wrong, so I think it would be probably a relief and it would be a relief to my grandchildren I think and people around me. I think they would be relieved definitely, yeah.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: Final word from you Simon?

 

PROFESSOR SIMON BARON-COHEN: Well, I mean to be fair to Jim, he's talking about traits rather than diagnosis and traits are common in the population. And in a way what Jim is doing for us is kind of highlighting the fact you can have partial syndromes, and I think that's kind of been a very refreshing part of this conversation.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: We have to leave it there. Simon Baron-Cohen, thanks so much for joining us from Cambridge. Great to have you here. Jim Fallon, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

 

JIM FALLON: Thanks Jenny.

 

JENNY BROCKIE: It's been fascinating and thank you all very much too for joining us. It's been a great evening. That is all we have time for here but let's keep talking on Twitter and Facebook, I'm interested in your thoughts on what you've heard tonight.