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Science Talk

Michael C. Hall Analyzes His Dexter's Mind, Part 1

Actor Michael C. Hall, TV's Dexter, talks with psychologist Kevin Dutton, author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City

Podcast Transcription

Steve Mirsky:            This Scientific American podcast is brought to you by Audible.com, your source for audiobooks and more.  Audible.com features more than 100,000 titles, including Kevin Dutton’s The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, and Richard Panek’s The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality.  Right now, Audible.com is offering a free audiobook and a one-month trial membership to the Scientific American audience.  For details, go to Audible.com/SciAm.

Welcome to the Scientific American podcast, science talk, posted on January 23, 2013.  I’m Steve Mirsky.  On this episode -

Michael C. Hall:            - guy should have stubble, and what sold him on it was there’s nothing Dexter hates more than to draw his own blood, because it’s a loss of control.  That’s why he has stubble.

Steve Mirsky:            That’s Michael C. Hall.  He is, of course, the star of Dexter and he’s everyone’s favorite psychopathic serial killer, on TV, anyway.  He recently spoke with psychologist Kevin Dutton, author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success.  They shared the stage at the Rubin Museum of Art here in New York City, which kindly shared the audio of that discussion with us.  The third voice that you’ll eventually hear is Tim McHenry, the director of public programs and performance.  The Rubin specializes in the art and culture of Himalayan Asia, which is why Buddhist issues come up in the context of the conversation.  Here’s Part 1 of Dutton and Dexter.

Kevin Dutton:            Do any of Dexter’s qualities actually rub off on you in everyday life?  I mean, if there was one - in a manner of speaking.  If there was one or another one, is there one quality that Dexter has that you could kind of - where you would like to steal from him and have as your own?

Michael C. Hall:            Yes.  I think his capacity -

Kevin Dutton:            Apart from killing things.

Michael C. Hall:            He’s remarkably capable in lots of ways, and, like I said, the show is fantastical and there are things that he pulls off that are really just implausible, but I think what is most remarkable about Dexter is his capacity for stress management, and I think that’s because of his ability to - as the heat goes up, his internal temperature goes down.  The crazier things get, the cooler he feels.  He almost craves chaos.  He seems to attract it, cultivate it, encourage it, because it’s the only thing that somehow soothes him.  I don’t know if that really answered your question, but I would like to be cooler under pressure.

Kevin Dutton:            Well, it’s very realistic, actually, because what you find is the more chaotic a situation, the more that psychopaths have to make decisions under pressure, the better their decision-making gets.  And so, under pressure - and we’ve seen it with Dexter - almost is the more the pressure builds, the cooler he gets.  And that is exactly what you see with psychopaths.  It really is.  But it’s incredible.  I think also the idea that Dexter is performing a service for society is very interesting.  I think it was the writer George Orwell once said that good men sleep soundly in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.  And I think that’s precisely what Dexter is doing.  I think he’s the cuddliest of serial killers.

Michael C. Hall:            Well, I think all bets would be off in terms of us being on the cusp of an eighth season if Dexter were killing people randomly.  The fact that he has taken unique responsibility for his darker impulses, arguably, and is killing people who, again, arguably, deserve it, invite us to relish the chance to identify with such a reprehensible person.  But you could argue that he’s saving more lives than he’s ending, given the kinds of characters he does in.

Kevin Dutton:            Well, it’s interesting.  I’ve thought that actually our fascination with serial killers I think revolves around our kind of fear or death.  I mean, our imagination evolved at root for intensely practical purposes.  It evolved to enable us to weigh out the outcomes of potential life events and to choose the most advantageous path, so to literally see in our mind’s eye the dangers or the benefits of certain courses of action.  So it’s effectively a very adaptive thing, our imagination.

Now, the biggest thing that separates us humans out from animals is the biggest fear is the fear of death and the fact that we know it’s gonna happen long before it does.  And I think this intense, unique fear absolutely touches on why we have a fascination with serial killers like Dexter, but I think Dexter stands alone, in a certain way.

I think the serial killer represents the most implacable embodiment of death that there is, the Grim Reaper, the eyes without empathy, the intellect without heart.  The serial killer represents a kind of a death that doesn’t respond to pleas for mercy, that has its own agenda, its own inexorable logic, the kind of the monster in the closet that we feared ever since childhood.  And I think our fascination with the serial killer in film and literature is basically predicated on the fact that actually most times the detective wins.  The monster is caged and put back in his box, but actually I think this is one of the reasons why Dexter has been so successful, because, of course, Dexter isn’t caged and put back in his box.  Dexter justifies his freedom by actually being our guardian demon - not our guardian angel, our guardian demon - by actually keeping us safe at night and safe from society.

And I think that’s where Dexter really bucks the trend and I think that’s why it’s so successful.  That’s why he’s such an appealing and alluring character.

Michael C. Hall:            As I’ve familiarized myself to the extent that I did with transcripts of interviews with serial killers and things like that, I came to feel that Dexter was singularly unique on that front in that he kills the kinds of people he kills.  And there’s this voiceover element that sort of makes it a subjective experience when you’re watching the show and you’re on the ride through his eyes, to a degree, but I don’t know that he’s the most reliable narrator all the time.

And I think if Dexter were really being honest - and this was certainly in play in the sixth season when he was preoccupied with notions of God and the divine.  I think if he came to any conclusion at the end of that season, he’s like, “In my world, I’m God.”  So he has a very, I don’t know, Machiavellian point of view about himself.  He keeps it quiet.  I mean, again, I don’t know if he went around whispering in the audience’s ear that he was God that many people would like him as much, but I think he actually does believe that.  Don’t tell anybody.

Kevin Dutton:            But I think, I mean, Dexter actually does fall into quite a well-known category of serial killer.  There’re actually four categories of serial killer out there.  You’ve got your visionary killers.  Visionary serial killers are people who are psychotic.  Now, often psychotic and psychopathic, those two terms are bandied around as if they’re the same.  Actually, they’re very, very different folks from a psychological point of view.  When we talk about someone that’s psychotic, we’re talking about someone who is out of touch with reality.  They are seeing visions, hearing delusions and hallucinations, all these kinds of things.  And so, visionary serial killers tend to respond to psychotic messages, to commands from God.  So that’s one kind of serial killer.

Another kind of serial killer is the hedonistic kind of serial killer.  Now, this is actually the most common kind.  Hedonistic serial killers tend to kill for the pleasure of killing, and they can be divided into three types.  You’ve got lust killers, who kill for sexual gratification; you’ve got thrill killers, who kill basically for the thrill they get out of tracking down and slaying their prey; and then you’ve got comfort killers, who kill for material gain.

The third category is power-seekers.  Power-seekers kill for the control that they have over their victims.  Now, they often sexually abuse their victims but in a different way from the lust killers.  They use sexuality as a way of controlling their victims.

And then, finally, we come to the fourth category, which are the missionaries.  The missionary serial killers are those killers who, very much like Dexter, preselect a kind of a specially designated group - could be the prostitutes or ethnic or religious minorities or, indeed, people who have done wrong - a group that, in their own mind, in their own logical world, they think deserve to die.  And they are the ones who they feel it’s incumbent upon them to clean up society.

So, this kind of compartmentalizing acts as a conscience disabler, and I see that very, very prevalent with Dexter, and I think that the fact that he’s becoming, perhaps, maybe less psychopathic as things go on, if we can say that - I think very realistic, actually, because maybe he’s actually becoming a little bit more in touch with that.

Michael C. Hall:            What’s really troubling is it’s really Dexter’s emergence as a less-psychopathic, more traditionally human person or - that’s getting him and the people in his life into trouble.  Well, that’s not a very happy thought, either, but -

Kevin Dutton:            I think we’ve discovered we’re not talking about happy anything.

Michael C. Hall:            But there is something about him that I would - people often ask me, “Is it a difficult proposition for you to simulate these things?” and you do whatever kind of internal alchemy you do.  I’m not really compelled to kill people, thankfully, but I am compelled to do things, so I think about that and then filter it that way, but there is something very attractive about someone who is as decisive as he is, who is not preoccupied with what other people might think about what he’s doing, and who is very, very supremely focused, and his capacity to be in and of his moment is phenomenal.

Kevin Dutton:            I think you touched on a really good point there.  I think that actually our fascination with psychopaths is actually - should be distinguished from our fascination with serial killers.  I think there’s two different things going on here.  Whenever I ask someone, “If I could turn you into a psychopath for half an hour with total impunity - so anything you do within that half an hour the slate will be wiped clean at the end of it.  You’ll have no regret; you’ll have no remorse, anything like that - the thing that most people - their answers fall into two categories.  It either falls into they would revisit terrible recriminations on people that have done them wrongs down the years or they would declare their undying affection for some unrequited love that’s down the years and they’ve never summoned up the courage to be able to do.

Now, the key is “without impunity.”  You have to be able to do it without impunity, and, of course, what you just said there, Michael, is absolutely true.  The thing which separates out the psychopath, the one defining feature, folks, that separates out the psychopath from most normal members of the population is the fact that they just don’t give a damn what people think of them.  They don’t give a damn how they appear to their fellow citizens.

Now, I think in a world in which our behavior is becoming under ever-closer scrutiny in the U.K.  I don’t know what the story is over in the U.S., but it’s now one closed-circuit TV camera for every 20 people.  And what is it now, two billion people on Facebook, something like that?  Our behavior is so much scrutinized these days, and I think that we’ve got psychopath envy.  I think we kind of envy psychopaths.  That’s kind of a steal on a Freudian term, I’m sure you probably know, but we envy psychopaths, their fertile, levitine imaginations, and I think you’re absolutely right.  That’s exactly what Dexter can do.  He can just behave as if he’s not fazed by anything, and I think that’s really part of his appeal.

I was gonna ask you a question, actually.  When you act as Dexter, do you do anything to get yourself into kind of a psychopathic frame of mind?  Do you psychopath up before you go on?

Michael C. Hall:            It’s more about what I maybe empty.  I’m invited to be without any preoccupation with my authenticity.  As an actor, it was an interesting challenge initially to play the character because he claimed to be without the capacity for authentic human emotion, and as actors we’re preoccupied with authentically presenting something.  So, it sort of freed me up to stop worrying about that, and if I -

Kevin Dutton:            You did a good job, I think.

Michael C. Hall:            And if I feel like I’m acting, that’s fine, because I am.  And it freed me up to be - to take off this sort of cloak of perpetually rotating eyeballs that are taking in information and causing me to modify how I behave and just not caring.  I mean, that was a nice invitation, in a way.

Kevin Dutton:            Well, I was gonna ask -

Michael C. Hall:            But as far as what I do, if I put on that kill suit, that kinda does the job.  I just look at myself in the mirror.

Kevin Dutton:            That kinda cellophane wrap.

Michael C. Hall:            I walk into that room and said, “Wow, I did all of this?”

Kevin Dutton:            Do you find it works?  Does it leak the other way around?  Do you find that when you play Dexter actually there’s a kind of a cooling-off period, where you kind of - like somebody got you 10 minutes after you came off set and would have to be pretty careful what they said to you.  I mean, that -

Michael C. Hall:            It depends on what I was shooting or simulating that day.  On the days where I’m playing scenes where Dexter is managing difficult logistical situations or hiding in one way or another, I probably am more stressed at the end of those days than - I’m never more free and light than after I’ve pretended to kill someone.

Kevin Dutton:            Glad you say that.

Michael C. Hall:            Pretended.

Kevin Dutton:            Pretended.  Well, that’s right.  But I think the other thing you just mentioned there about Dexter is the fact that as well as not caring, not giving a damn of what people think about him, you also mentioned the fact - and it was a good insight into the character - that he’s also very decisive, and actually, when you look at psychopaths in everyday life, they actually are very decisive.  And I’ll give you an example of this.  In 2011, last year, I launched something called the Great British Psychopath Survey, and we’re now rolling this out in the States.  It’s now called the Great American Psychopath Survey, and what happened was participants who wanted to take part in it were directed onto my Web site, which is www.kevindutton.co.uk.  Just wanna slip that in so you could all take part in it.

And they filled out a questionnaire online, which told them how psychopathic they were, and that wasn’t all, though.  They also entered their employment details.  So, what I wanted to know was what was the U.K.’s most psychopathic profession and what was its least psychopathic profession.  Well, the results were a real eye-opener.  Number one was blood-spatter expert, actually, funny enough.  No, it wasn’t.  It wasn’t really.  Number one was CEOs.  I’m just going off the top of my head, now.  Number two were lawyers.  Number three were media, radio and TV kinds of people.  Very interestingly, number seven were clerics, church people, so - or maybe not so surprisingly.

Michael C. Hall:            Can I ask you a question?

Kevin Dutton:            Yeah.

Michael C. Hall:            The media, is that talking heads like broadcasters, things like that?

Kevin Dutton:            Well, it was -

Michael C. Hall:            Not people who act on ____?

Kevin Dutton:            That’s exactly right, not actor.

Michael C. Hall:            Just wanted to clarify.

Kevin Dutton:            No, that’s actually right.  We didn’t get enough of those responding, actually, but the point is that actually, Michael, what you find is that you find that actually any kind of situation - surgeons were in there, by the way, and I’ll come back to them in a minute.  Surgeons were in there at number six.  Any kind of situation in which you’ve got an organizational hierarchy, where you’ve got a kind of a power dynamic, where you’ve got a situation where you have to think under pressure and make decisions quickly, psychopaths tend to do very well in those situations.

Now, I interviewed a top British neurosurgeon, who was very high along the psychopathic spectrum, absolutely.  He really was, and it does kind of make you a bit scared, but actually it all slots into place when you think about the characteristics that you need to be a surgeon.  He said that actually when you’re operating - and he actually likened neurosurgery to the margin of error as being between two crucial capillaries in the brain as being like the margin of error for a sniper between taking a head shot between a hostage and a hostage taker.  He says you need to be very focused, exactly like Dexter.  You need to be ruthless.  You need to be fearless.  You can’t have too much empathy for what you’re doing, but, number one, you need to be decisive.  A top surgeon needs to be decisive in a situation where things go wrong.  They cannot dither.  Whether they make the right decision or the wrong decision is kind of secondary, but they have to make a decision.  So I think that’s another thing that Dexter really epitomizes.  He is very decisive.

Michael C. Hall:            And I think attractive as a result, psychopath envy, again.

Kevin Dutton:            That’s right.

Michael C. Hall:            I mean, he’s no Hamlet, and if I ever have to have brain surgery, I’ll just join your survey and have them fill it out.  Whoever scores highest -

Kevin Dutton:            That’s absolutely right.  But I think it’s one of - going back to the lizard brain and the ability to detect kind of weaknesses, there’s a Buddhist connection here with the theater that we’re in.  Psychopaths we know are also very good - this is kind of related - at telling the difference between truth-tellers and liars.  We know that they have an enhanced ability to tell the difference between people who’re telling truth, people who’re telling lies.

We also know that another group of people who’re very good at that are expert Buddhist monk meditators.  Now, we think that they’re good at this for different reasons.  The expert Buddhist monk meditators are able to kind of slow down their perceptual processes to pick out something called micro-expressions.  Now, micro-expressions are lightning changes in facial scenery, which the brain kinda downloads onto our face before it kind of presents the real picture that it wants the world to see.  Now, it seems that expert Buddhist meditator monks are extremely good at picking out these micro-expressions, which are there when we tell lies but which aren’t visible to most of our naked eyes.

Psychopaths, we think - we don’t know for certain - are very good at this, because they are the ultimate social predators.  When they say something to you, they are scrutinizing your reaction to it to see if they’ve kind of pushed a button or not.  That’s our theory.  But, anyway, I just came back from India, where I - actually, we had the Olympic Games in London.  I wanted to show a kind of a world championship of mine, a world championship in cold reading.  So I pitched a bunch of Buddhist monk meditators who live high in the Himalayas against a bunch of psychopathic killers on a test of cold reading.

Here’s how I did it.  You know you have these pleader videos over here in the U.S.  The pleader videos are when you get people who are organized by police press conferences.  You get people who are appealing to the general public for information about the whereabouts of their loved ones.  Do you have that over in the U.S.?  Well, and we know that some of them have done it themselves, right?  We know that Dexter would be after some of those people, and we know that some of them are genuine.  So I got 20 of these pleader videos, and basically I went to the high Himalayas to these remote monks’ cabins and I basically said to them, “Tell me who’s telling the truth.  Tell me which are the genuine ones and tell me which are the fake ones.”  And I can’t tell you the results of the study but they were very, very interesting.  I also went to a bunch of psychopaths and said, “Tell me who’s telling the truth and tell me who’s telling lies,” and compared.  The study’s called Punks Versus Monks, by the way.  I like that.  I’ll never be able to get away with it.

But it’s very interesting.  What I will say - I won’t tell you who won, but I will tell you that psychopaths were way, way above average, right in accordance with the Dexter hypothesis, at picking out the people who were lying against the people who were telling the truth.  So, I think if I gave Dexter those 20 pleader videos, he would be scoring way above average at that, I think.  That’s, again, that kind of lizard-brain thing, picking up on the _____ -

Michael C. Hall:            That’s fantastic, I mean, someone who dedicates their lives to cultivating a sense of detached compassion and someone has this just naturally occurring version of what might be the same thing.  They seem a bit opposite ends of some spectrum and yet -

Kevin Dutton:            It’s almost like psychopaths are here and expert Buddhist monks are here, and they’re kind of opposite sides of the Bering Strait of personality.  The psychopaths are on this kind of tip of Alaska and the Buddhist monks are on this tip of Russia and they’re so near to each other and yet they’re so far.  They’re separated by this kind of international, psychological dateline of compassion, it would be, but they’re actually very, very close in terms of laboratory tasks but actually for completely different reasons, Michael.

Michael C. Hall:            Maybe one is expert in tolerating the awareness of a perpetual sense of compassion and the other ones just don’t have it.

Kevin Dutton:            Well, that’s my scientific hypothesis, actually, but there’s other similarities between psychopaths and Buddhist monks, again, talking about that emotional detachment.  Both actually make more money if you set up mock investment games.  Now, imagine if I said to you I’ve got some money and I’m gonna split it with you, but you have to accept what I give you.  So let’s say I’ve got 100 bucks.  A fair offer would be 50/50.  I’ve got $50.00.  I’ll give you $50.00.  You might accept that, but what most people start doing is they start kind of not accepting it as soon as I start saying, “I’ve got $70.00 and you’re going to have $30.00.”  That’s the kinda level at which people start saying, “No, I don’t think I’ll accept that,” normal people like us.

But what you find is that psychopaths actually aren’t bothered by that kind of unfairness, that imbalance.  All they’re interested in - what makes a psychopath happy is instant reward, instant gratification.  That’s one of the things, so they don’t care what the other person gets.  They just focus on what they can get, rather counterintuitive, actually.  Buddhist monks have been shown to - expert Buddhist monks do exactly the same but for a completely different reason.  They’re just happy that the other person’s getting more for a completely different reason.  You’ve just put your finger right on it.  Whereas the psychopaths are just interested in what the hell they’re getting, the Buddhist monks are more - they’re just happy the other person’s getting more.

So there are these real similarities between Buddhists and psychopaths, and what makes psychopaths happy - do you see what I’m doing there, folks, slipping that word “happy” in there?  Two things make psychopaths happy.  One is instant reward and the other is control, and I think that’s something, which is also a pitch of mine since Dexter, that psychological need for control.  As an actor, do you think that’s something that -

Michael C. Hall:            Absolutely.  I mean, you see it in the career he’s chosen.  He’s creating a sense of order out of apparent chaos when he shows up on a crime scene with blood splattered everywhere and he can figure out what happened and answer seemingly unanswerable questions, and I think in his hobby or his night job or whatever you call it, he’s doing the same thing.  Even the way he - as I justified to myself why he does things the way he does in terms of covering a room with plastic, I mean, he wants to control the inevitable chaos that will come when he dismembers someone and their blood flows everywhere.  He’s all about controlling chaos, and that really fuels him.

Even after doing Six Feet Under, I was clean-shaven every day for five years and I was tired of shaving, and the producers were like, “Well, I mean, you should be very meticulous and you should be clean-shaven.”  I said, “I think I should have stubble,” and what sold them on it was there’s nothing Dexter hates more than to draw his own blood, because it’s a loss of control.  That’s why he has stubble.  It all goes back to control.

Kevin Dutton:            But also the collecting the blood slides as well.  I mean, that’s all about literally putting things in a box.  That’s all about putting these kind of victims’ identities in a box, and I think -

Michael C. Hall:            This insane finding a victim, tracking the victim, killing the victim -

                                    [Crosstalk]

Kevin Dutton:            That’s exactly right.

Michael C. Hall:            - cutting them to pieces.  It’s all represented in this - that whole experience is encapsulated.

Kevin Dutton:            And I think there was a scene in one of the episodes, where actually he dropped the blood slides and it went all over the floor, and that really did freak him out, didn’t it?  He kinda lost it there.

Michael C. Hall:            In fact, it was a point of contention with the writers, because they put it in there and it was basically they put it there to get from Point A to Point B storytelling-wise, and it was sort of written as if it were something incidental, and I said to them, “No, this is as traumatic a thing as could happen here.”

Kevin Dutton:            Absolutely a powerful scene, very powerful scene, and I think what Dexter has, folks - when we talk about a psychopath, no sooner is the word out than images of, as I said, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer come creeping across our minds.  But actually when we talk about a psychopath, we talk about someone with a distinct set of psychological characteristics.  Now, these characteristics are ruthlessness, fearlessness, mental toughness, coolness under pressure, intense focus on what they’re doing if they can stand to benefit out of it, if they’re getting something out of it, and also a sublime lack of empathy and conscience.

Now, sometimes that can be localized.  People can have localized psychopathy in terms of either their professional or what Dexter’s doing, but the one thing - now, if you think about all those traits I’ve just said as the dials on a studio mixing desk, this kind of puts it in perspective.  If you have all of those dials cranked up to max and you have that on your default setting, then you overload the circuit.  You wind up getting 30 years inside, but if you turn some of them high and some of them down low, become, as it were, a method psychopath as opposed to a method actor, then you are predisposed to great success in certain professions.

Now, the one dial which seems to make the difference between a successful psychopath, a functional psychopath like Dexter, and criminal dysfunctional psychopaths is the impulsivity dial.  Now, criminal psychopaths, unsuccessful psychopaths, tend to have that dial turned all the way up.  They cannot delay their gratification.  They want it and they want it now, but successful functional psychopaths have that impulsivity dial turned down low on the graphic equalizer, and that seems to be the big difference between the two.  Now, that’s what Dexter has turned down quite a bit.  Dexter is not impulsive, is he?

Michael C. Hall:            No, and that’s something that his father cultivated in him through the code and everything like that, but I think Dexter has actually gotten - played faster and looser with that impulsivity and those dials, and it’s what gets him into hot water, that he’s much less disciplined than he was when we first met him necessarily, just to move things forward and make them interesting, but yeah.

Kevin Dutton:            It also links up with - we’re talking about what makes psychopaths successful.  It also links up with intelligence and it also links up with whether you’re naturally violent.  Now, if you’ve got those traits and you are naturally violent and you’re naturally stupid, actually, your prospects aren’t exactly great, to be perfectly honest with you.  You’re gonna end up smashing a bottle over someone’s head and you’re gonna wind up in prison very, very quickly.  But if you have those traits and you’re not naturally violent and you’re also very intelligent, then Reuters once ran a very, very famous, funny headline then you’re more likely to make a killing in the market than anywhere else.  Now, is Dexter naturally violent?  Does he have an aggressive streak in him, do you think?  You can certainly fight well, can’t you?  I mean, I remember the scene, where he -

Michael C. Hall:            I mean, he’s remarkably capable.  There’re all kinds of scenes we don’t see.  He has the power to turn himself into smoke.  He can -

Kevin Dutton:            That dial’s not on the mixing desk.

Michael C. Hall:            Anyway, I feel that when he’s firing on all cylinders, when he’s behaving efficiently, when he is in the midst of whatever the arc of his tracking someone and killing them, when that’s happening, no, but when he’s coming up against something, then yes.  I mean, we see him in the seventh season I think at the beginning of the third episode fantasizing violently taking people out at the post office, because he’s under some sort of pressure.  So, I think when that happens, when he doesn’t have a way to exercise his violent impulses in a controlled way, then he risks losing control.

Kevin Dutton:            Well, I think that’s also very accurate, because whenever I’m around psychopaths, one of the things that you notice is that actually psychopathic violence is very what we call instrumental.  So, whenever I say to people, well, I go into dangerous and severe personality disorder units of maximum-security hospitals and prisons, people’s initial reaction is to say, “Well, that’s gotta be one of the most dangerous places on Earth, right?”  Well, actually, you’ve got some of the most dangerous people on Earth in there, but actually what’s more dangerous are the psychotic units, where you’ve got people who are schizophrenic who - a little bit like the visionary serial killers I was talking about earlier who respond to voices and see hallucinations or alter egos commanding them to kill.  That kind of unit is very unpredictable.  The violence is very sporadic, is very unpredictable, even though that can be controlled to some extent by drug therapy.  When you go into a psychopath unit, actually, things are very ordered, because a psychopath won’t be violent to you unless there is a direct purpose for that.  Now, let’s say that you’ve got 100 bucks, which I gave you earlier.  Let’s say that I want it.  If I’m a psychopath, I’m not gonna assault you straightaway.  I might try to talk it out of you.  Then if that doesn’t work I might try to steal it off you.  And if I really want it and that doesn’t work, then if I’m naturally violent then I might use violence.  The violence isn’t unpredictable.  It’s very instrumental and very focused toward a goal, so when you go into a dangerous and severe personality disorder unit, you find everything in order, because actually psychopaths are pretty much got everything they want in these units, so there’s no reason for them to be violent, and if they are violent or if they do have cause to be violent, you can kind of see it coming a lot of the time.  So, I think Dexter’s violence, as you were saying, there’s a goal towards it.  Again, it’s very psychopathic, very accurate.  There’s that instrumental-ness to it, I think.

Michael C. Hall:            That is very encouraging to hear, truly, because the character I’m playing now in a lot of ways is so far removed from the character I understood Dexter to be when we started.  So, to hear from you that we’ve managed to maintain some sort of authenticity as far as his psychopathy goes, that’s encouraging.

Kevin Dutton:            He’s a developing psychopath.  I don’t know about the turning things into smoke.  I don’t know, but we’ll have to see how it goes in the next series.

Michael C. Hall:            That’s Level 5.

Kevin Dutton:            That’s right.  I’ve never seen that one before, but -

Michael C. Hall:            Shapeshifters.

Steve Mirsky:            That’s it for Part 1.  Kevin Dutton’s book is called The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success.  You can get it as your free audiobook by taking advantage of the offer at www.audible.com/sciam.  We’ll be right back with Part 2.

[End of Audio]

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