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The Psychopaths Among Us with William Hirstein

Sometimes, in this world of ours, we encounter madness and monsters. And if we have grown up in environments where our sense of safety and survival has curried us to be ready for danger, well, we end up looking for it – whether we want to or not.

It doesn't mean that we walk around life like we are Lara Croft – armed and ready to take down the bad guys. No, it’s more we are like the girl in the horror movie that everyone is yelling at “No! Don’t run back into the house stupid! What are you doing?!” 

Because who’s waiting for us in the house?  That’s right. The ax-wielding psychopath. 

I know that’s extreme and I’m just trying to be lighthearted but the truth is scary than horror-movie fiction. 

There are psychopaths among us in our every day lives. And sometimes, for some of people, they are so close to us its frightening once we know who they really are. 

But what is a psychopath? Are they only crazed murderers? Violent criminals? Are they always only the obvious abhorrent members of our society? 

Or is the answer even more frightening than that? 

So in this episode Ameé speaks with William Hirstein. Bill is both a philosopher and a scientist, having published numerous scientific articles, including works on consciousness and sociopathy. He is the author of several books, including Brain Fiction: Self-Deception and the Riddle of Confabulation (MIT, 2005), and Mindmelding: Consciousness, Neuroscience, and the Mind’s Privacy (Oxford, 2012) and the latest one: Responsible Brains: Neuroscience, Law, and Human Culpability (The MIT Press) 

In this episode, you will hear:  

  • What does this concept of psychopathy and sociopathy come from?

  • How did it enter our culture and the field of psychology?And how is it determined if someone is one?

  • Does this evaluation have to be performed by a trained professional?

  • What are the legal implications?What are the core sets of features then of someone with psychopathy? 

  • Why is it important to be able to have label on someone?

  • Does it just help satisfy our curiosity or are there implications from it? 

  • Is a psychopath ever able to take responsibility ever for their actions?



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