Thursday, March 15, 2012

Psychopath Chat

To investigate whether there are actually “psychopathic tendencies” in the way a person talks, researchers at Cornell University compared stories told by 14 imprisoned psychopathic male murderers with those of 38 convicted murderers who were not diagnosed as psychopathic. 

Each subject was asked to describe his crime in detail; the stories were taped, transcribed and subjected to computer analysis.

The analysis showed that psychopaths are more likely than other criminals to use words that reveal a great degree of selfishness, detachment from their crimes and emotional flatness, the study found. These include conjunctions like “because,” “since” or “so that,” to imply that the crime “had to be done” to obtain a particular goal. 

Here are a few other notable differences:
• Psychopaths 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.
• They were also more likely to use the past tense, suggesting a detachment from their crimes.
• 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 and needs to use more mental effort to frame the story. (more)