View Full Version : Study unveils word patterns of psychopaths

10-18-2011, 02:15 AM
The language of psychopathic murderers provides a window to their souls, new research shows.

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.

10-18-2011, 03:17 AM
I read a very similar article a while back. If we already have sites that process your own writing and compare it against a database of historic authors to determine who you write like...

..then I foresee something similar on the horizon, but can be used to screen for psychopaths. I'd love to try that out using people's posts from this site;)

cutn' heads
10-18-2011, 10:16 AM
we have sites like that, robbie? i'd love to see that.