Watch The Science of Psychopaths

Written by: The Exchange

About 1% of people may meet the clinical criteria for psychopathy… give or take. So if the average American has about 250 Facebook friends (according to The Atlantic) and claims a network of about 600 people (per The New York Times), by our reckoning, just about everyone knows a psychopath. And even if you can’t claim a personal relationship with a psychopath, we guarantee that psychologist and neuroscientist Abigail Marsh knows more than her fair share. But what do we really know about psychopathy? For starters, this unusually common – and very serious — mental disorder clearly reflects a callous, uncaring, and disinhibited personality that significantly increases aggressive behavior. But Abby’s focus on the intriguing and surprising relationship between empathy and psychopathy reveals significant impairment in the ability to experience pain, amusement, and fear. This illuminating, sometimes unsettling, conversation between Abby and television writer/producer Bryan Fuller (known for his wildly original and often macabre work), will take as its starting point the moral transgressions of psychopathy. Join us.

***VIP Q&A After the Main Event***

If you donated $100 or more in the past 12 months or donate at the $20 level for this event, you’ll have the opportunity to join our 30 minute VIP Q&A right after the main event at around 2PM PDT/5PM EDT and speak directly with Abby. We’ll reach out to those donors with more details.


Abigail Marsh is a Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Cognitive Science at Georgetown University and is the Past-President of the Social & Affective Neuroscience Society. Her research is aimed at answering the questions: How do we understand what others think and feel? What drives us to help other people? What prevents us from harming them? She addresses these questions using functional and structural brain imaging in adolescents and adults, as well as behavioral, cognitive, genetic, and pharmacological techniques. She is the author of over 90 publications in journals that include Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and JAMA Psychiatry, as well as a book about her research called The Fear Factor (2017, Hachette).

Bryan Fuller is a television writer and producer who has created a number of television series, including Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, Hannibal, and American Gods. Fuller worked as writer and executive producer on the Star Trek television series Voyager and Deep Space Nine; he is also the co-creator of Star Trek: Discovery.Bryan began work on his first feature film in 2021, writing a new adaptation of the Stephen King novel Christine for Sony Pictures and Blumhouse Productions, planning to make his directorial debut.

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.