Sanctuary for the Abused

Friday, November 04, 2011

Psychopaths Can Be Spotted by their Speech Patterns


Psychopaths are known to be wily and manipulative, but even so, they unconsciously betray themselves, according to scientists who have looked for patterns in convicted murderers' speech as they described their crimes.

The researchers interviewed 52 convicted murderers, 14 of them ranked as psychopaths according to the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, a 20-item assessment, and asked them to describe their crimes in detail. Using computer programs to analyze what the men said, the researchers found that those with psychopathic scores showed a lack of emotion, spoke in terms of cause-and-effect when describing their crimes, and focused their attention on basic needs, such as food, drink and money.

While we all have conscious control over some words we use, particularly nouns and verbs, this is not the case for the majority of the words we use, including little, functional words like "to" and "the" or the tense we use for our verbs, according to Jeffrey Hancock, the lead researcher and an associate professor in communications at Cornell University, who discussed the work on Oct. 17 in Midtown Manhattan at Cornell's ILR Conference Center.

"The beautiful thing about them is they are unconsciously produced," Hancock said.

These unconscious actions can reveal the psychological dynamics in a speaker's mind even though he or she is unaware of it, Hancock said.

 

What it means to be a psychopath
Psychopaths make up about 1 percent of the general population and as much as 25 percent of male offenders in federal correctional settings, according to the researchers. Psychopaths are typically profoundly selfish and lack emotion. "In lay terms, psychopaths seem to have little or no 'conscience,'" write the researchers in a study published online in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology.

Psychopaths are also known for being cunning and manipulative, and they make for perilous interview subjects, according to Michael Woodworth, one of the authors and a psychologist who studies psychopathy at the University of British Columbia, who joined the discussion by phone.

"It is unbelievable," Woodworth said. "You can spend two or three hours and come out feeling like you are hypnotized."

While there are reasons to suspect that psychopaths' speech patterns might have distinctive characteristics, there has been little study of it, the team writes.

How words give them away

To examine the emotional content of the murderers' speech, Hancock and his colleagues looked at a number of factors, including how frequently they described their crimes using the past tense. The use of the past tense can be an indicator of psychological detachment, and the researchers found that the psychopaths used it more than the present tense when compared with the nonpsychopaths. They also found more dysfluencies — the "uhs" and "ums" that interrupt speech — among psychopaths. Nearly universal in speech, dysfluencies indicate that the speaker needs some time to think about what they are saying.

With regard to psychopaths, "We think the 'uhs' and 'ums' are about putting the mask of sanity on," Hancock told LiveScience.

Psychopaths appear to view the world and others instrumentally, as theirs for the taking, the team, which also included Stephen Porter from the University of British Columbia, wrote.

As they expected, the psychopaths' language contained more words known as subordinating conjunctions. These words, including "because" and "so that," are associated with cause-and-effect statements.

"This pattern suggested that psychopaths were more likely to view the crime as the logical outcome of a plan (something that 'had' to be done to achieve a goal)," the authors write.

And finally, while most of us respond to higher-level needs, such as family, religion or spirituality, and self-esteem, psychopaths remain occupied with those needs associated with a more basic existence.

Their analysis revealed that psychopaths used about twice as many words related to basic physiological needs and self-preservation, including eating, drinking and monetary resources than the nonpsychopaths, they write.

By comparison, the nonpsychopathic murderers talked more about spirituality and religion and family, reflecting what nonpsychopathic people would think about when they just committed a murder, Hancock said.

The researchers are interested in analyzing what people write on Facebook or in other social media, since our unconscious mind also holds sway over what we write. By analyzing stories written by students from Cornell and the University of British Columbia, and looking at how the text people generate using social media relates to scores on the Self-Report Psychopathy scale. Unlike the checklist, which is based on an extensive review of the case file and an interview, the self report is completed by the person in question.

This sort of tool could be very useful for law enforcement investigations, such as in the case of the Long Island serial killer, who is being sought for the murders of at least four prostitutes and possibly others, since this killer used the online classified site Craigslist to contact victims, according to Hancock.

Text analysis software could be used to conduct a "first pass," focusing the work for human investigators, he said. "A lot of time analysts tell you they feel they are drinking from a fire hose."

Knowing a suspect is a psychopath can affect how law enforcement conducts investigations and interrogations, Hancock said.

You can follow LiveScience writer Wynne Parry on Twitter @Wynne_Parry

SOURCE

Labels: , , , , , , ,

shared by Barbara at 1:04 AM


Share

2 Comments:

Thank you. I keep thinking that if society as a whole hadn't been FORCED into spouting all the Freudian, Jung etc. garbage, and thus had to conform all personalities into these models of identifing everyone, we may have been able to get here (diagnosing/identifing psychopaths) faster. We still restrict everyone. Politically correct terms, not wanting to offend anyone only freezes us from seeing the truth. If we are/were just allowed to say that some people are BORN, yes BORN evil, and that there is no way to fix them, we may have been able to help the rest of us. Protect us from destroying our lives.

In his book "When a Nation Forgets God" Lutzer addresses this. It all starts out with a proclamation of peace, freedom, what's best for everyone, they then start taking away these very things and we are left with nothing more than another prison system that we "chose". We blind our own eyes by trying to justify evil. To try and deny that God is real and if we admit this, we must then admit that we are peons. Dust and dirt really.

George Simon in his book "In Sheep's Clothing" talks about how when he initially gave workshops on the info in his book, many in the psychology field that were attending, walked out and scoffed. They had been so trained in the models of freud etc. that they were blinded to other options. But after decades of pasting these models onto people, and it clearly not being true, many are now interested in other options. But are we seeking TRUTH or just looking for another way to label people?

Why on earth aren't we giving MRI's to test for psychopathy, a broader audience? Why aren't the masses being taught that some things aren't fixable and the only protection we have is to stay away from these people? This article too didn't say they were tested by MRI's which would unequivically show that their brains can't feel emotions like love, sympathy etc.

AND, why is it "okay" for these doctors to tentatively admit that psychopathy is true and identifiable, but the rest of us are supposed to sit back and try to "get along" with evil ones? Why do we allow this?

11:21 AM  

Barbara,

Here's another bit of info on the continuing study of psychopathy: Identification of psychopathic individuals using pattern classification ... by JR Sato - 2011

6:07 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home