Event Recap: Science of Psychopaths!

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Phrases like “sense of entitlement” and “out of touch with reality” described every prominent person mentioned throughout the night.

Words like “arrogance” and “narcissism” were used repeatedly.

High atop the gorgeous SoHo House last Thursday evening, in a room filled with some of Hollywood’s finest and most scientifically-curious minds, a discussion was had about why some of the most famous names in history act the way they do.

However, those referenced weren’t quite the characters you might expect.

When everyone took their seats and the lights began to dim, Dr. Mary Ellen O’Toole, formerly a profiler for the FBI, took her place in front of an audience as engaged to a subject matter as I’d ever seen before. 

While many in the room may have worked alongside the likes of George Clooney or Angelina Jolie, Dr. O’Toole spent her career working closely with names like the Green River Killer and the Unabomber. 

The event, hosted by the Science and Entertainment Exchange, kept those lucky enough to attend captivated by O’Toole’s up-close interactions with some of the most infamous serial killers and psychopaths in American history. Also providing chilling insight was Dan Akemon, a Los Angeles District Attorney, and Mark Lillienfeld, a seasoned LAPD Detective. Both shared their experiences in finding and prosecuting psychopaths such as Los Angeles’ very own “Grim Sleeper”. Lillienfeld also spoke about his interaction with Charles Manson, describing the sudden shift in mood from a polite gentleman to a rambling madman within minutes of speaking to the notorious killer.

The guest speakers provided everyone with the oftentimes eye-opening science behind some of the most psychopathic minds to date. While common characteristics like being overly proud, lacking any remorse and feeling like the rules don’t apply might describe a lunch table in a Beverly Hills hotspot, they are also traits in almost every serial killer interviewed by the guest speakers.

Many in the room gasped after learning that the first eighteen months of a child’s life are key in the development of violent psychopaths. It was also mentioned that over 50% of serial killers were bed-wetters. While it was impossible to pick out the parents in the crowd, I imagine a few glances were shared over a child or two.

While some of the guests enjoyed their first Exchange “salon”, several in the room spoke afterwards about this being one of the most interesting, albeit disturbing, events they’d ever attended.

The Science and Entertainment Exchange’s salons are quickly becoming one of the toughest tickets in Hollywood. What began as a group of intrigued listeners quickly transitioned into an unprecedented Q&A, where almost every hand in the room appeared raised until the very end.

A small group, their inquisitive minds determined to not let the evening wind down, gathered near the speakers to keep the conversation about death very much alive. As heads continued to shake and eyebrows remained raised, it was clear that the Exchange had once again succeeded in bringing some of the best in their respective fields together for a truly entertaining and mind-blowing evening.

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.