How To Tell if You are a, umm, Psychopath!

Do you say uhm and ahhh a lot?  If so you too could be a psychopath!

Okay, I’m teasing a bit, but a research study recently out shows that psychotic folks talk differently from non-psychotic folks, and more like other psychotic folks.  Scientists noticed several things they think that law enforcement and criminologists might be able to use to spot people who are close to the edge.  Wanna know a little more about what psychotic chat sounds like?  Here are some ideas:

The words they use “match their personalities, which reflect selfishness, detachment from their crimes and emotional flatness,” says Jeff Hancock, a professor of computing and information science at New York State’s Cornell University. He conducted the study with colleagues at the University of British Columbia.

Their findings appear in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology.

The team says it analyzed stories told by 14 psychopathic male murderers held in Canadian prisons and compared them with 38 convicted murderers who were not diagnosed as psychopathic. Each subject was asked to describe his crime in detail and their stories were taped, transcribed and subjected to computer analysis.

“Psychopaths used more conjunctions like “because,” “since” or “so that,” implying that the crime “had to be done” to obtain a particular goal. They used twice as many words relating to physical needs, such as food, sex or money, while non-psychopaths used more words about social needs, including family, religion and spirituality,” the paper says. “Unveiling their predatory nature in their own description, the psychopaths often included details of what they had to eat on the day of their crime.”

Psychopaths were more likely to use the past tense, suggesting a detachment from their crimes, say the researchers. They tended to be less fluent in their speech, using more “ums” and “uhs.”

The exact reason for this is not clear, but the researchers speculate that the psychopath is trying harder to make a positive impression, needing to use more mental effort to frame the story.

“Previous work has looked at how psychopaths use language,” Hancock said. “Our paper is the first to show that you can use automated tools to detect the distinct speech patterns of psychopaths.”

The study’s authors say their research could lead to new tools for diagnosis and treatment, and have implications on law enforcement and social media.


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