Kevin’s first book, Flipnosis – The Art of Split Second Persuasion, first published in 2010 and since translated into 18 languages, documents his quest – from the political genius of Winston Churchill to the malign influence of some of the world’s top con artists – for the psychological ‘DNA’ of persuasion.
Dr Kevin Dutton FBPsS CPsychol is a psychologist, author and highly acclaimed speaker in the field of elite cognition and high performance. He has written a number of bestselling books on his particular areas of expertise within the field of psychology which include the science of persuasion and social influence, and the benefits of psychopathic personality characteristics in high risk, high pressure situations.
Together with former SAS sergeant and bestselling author, Andy McNab, Kevin has developed the concept of the “Good Psychopath” to describe those individuals – like Special Forces soldiers, top surgeons, and elite sportspeople, for example – who are able to harness their inner ruthlessness, fearlessness and focus for the good of society rather than to its detriment.
He is also known for developing the SPICE model of social influence – simplicity, perceived self-interest, incongruity, confidence and empathy – which form the key ingredients of ‘extreme persuasion’, a brand of influence that has proven of considerable interest to various branches of military intelligence.
Kevin’s next book, Black and White Thinking (published in the UK in August, 2020) explores what he calls the “categorization instinct” – the innate, inexorable drive that each of us have to divide the world up into little black and white squares of meaning like the squares on a chessboard – and how these squares can often be a double-edged sword. On the one hand they allow us to make sense of the world around us. But on the other they give rise to division, discrimination and prejudice.
Kevin is also co-founder of Oxford Elite Performance (OEP) which has worked with an impressive portfolio of clients equipping individuals, teams and organizations with the psychological know-how to not just perform under pressure but to thrive – the apparatus of elite cognition.
Kevin is a fellow of the British Psychological Society.
Born in London in 1967, Kevin has spent the best part of the last two decades as a research psychologist at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. But he traces his interest in the subject back to his childhood and watching his father sell bits of tat on a market stall in London where he grew up. “He could flog shaving cream to the Taliban,” says Kevin. He was also a psychopath.
In light of this, it’s perhaps not surprising that Kevin’s first two books were, in turn, on the science of social influence, and psychopaths. Flipnosis saw him spend time with some of the world’s top con artists – the ‘evil geniuses’ of the influence world – as he tried to figure out the DNA of persuasion, while in The Wisdom of Psychopaths he accomplished a world first by turning himself into a temporary psychopath through the application of a technique known as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): psychopathy to go! You’ll be glad to hear it’s since worn off (he says).
Kevin and Andy McNab first got together live on air during a radio interview. Having just recounted the story of how he’d been left by his mother in a Harrods bag on the steps of Guy’s Hospital in London Andy was surprised to be interrupted. “That’s hard to believe,” said Kevin. “You strike me more as a TK-Maxx man, mate.” Their relationship has continued along pretty much the same lines of studious disrespect ever since.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Kevin started an initiative on social media called Bottle Moments with his friend, the cartoonist Rob Murray. Bottle Moments aims to enshrine the moments that keyworkers are most looking forward to after lockdown – people they long to see again, treasured hobbies or places they long to revisit, events put on hold – in fun, highly personal cartoons. The initiative really took off and Kevin & Rob are now looking to extend Bottle Moments with the aim of providing help and support to other people most in need of it: sick children, the lonely, and the homeless, for example. So meaningful are the cartoons that some recipients are even getting them tattooed!
Kevin’s work has been translated worldwide into eighteen languages and his writing and research has been featured in Scientific American, New Scientist, The Guardian, The Times, Psychology Today, The New York Times, The Wall St Journal, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Slate, USA Today and others.
He has contributed numerous times to both television and radio and was the presenter and Executive Producer of the much-acclaimed Psychopath Night – a two-hour special on the ‘dark science’ of personality that aired in the UK in December 2014 on Channel 4. Kevin also devised the ground-breaking ‘Everyday Psychopathy’ survey which accompanied the show on its website and which nearly four million people have since completed. It is one of the largest scientific internet surveys ever conducted.
In the summer of 2017, having profiled Donald Trump as being high on the psychopathic spectrum in a cover feature article for Scientific American Mind, he was receiving, on average, around ten death threats a week from irate Trump supporters. One included a picture of him in a gas chamber with Trump in an SS uniform hitting the button. It now occupies pride of place on his office door.
Warming to the task of treading dangerously, the following summer Kevin was then invited on to Good Morning Britain by Piers Morgan to see if he was a psychopath. To many people’s surprise, he wasn’t.
In addition to his academic research and his public engagement activities, Kevin also acts as a consultant within both the public and private sectors. His clients come from a wide range of fields including senior corporate management, elite sport, and military intelligence.