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Sunday, October 23, 2011

"How to Spot Psychopaths: Speech Patterns Give Them Away"

An article which appeared on Yahoo yesterday:

A couple excerpts:

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....

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.

Focusing their attention on food, drink, and money, are themes this blog has mentioned in the past. One of the things that distinguishes a sociopath (which is essentially another word for a psychopath) is their utter lack of human(e) feeling. Therefore, after committing a murder, which is the last time a nonsociopath would be thinking about food, they are so relaxed and unperturbed they will immediately think about food or drink. And they will do anything to get money. We all like money, but for sociopaths, it often takes on an almost talismanic meaning. (As in, sociopaths are the root of all evil.)

Use of the past tense is certainly interesting, and makes sense. ("That was the old me, now I've turned over a new leaf.") I had never noticed the more frequent uses of "ums" and "uhs" before, but that makes sense too. ("Uh, officer, the, uh, gun just flew into my hand and, um, just went off on its own.")

What I had thought the article might mention, but didn't, is a tendency I've noticed with at least two sociopaths I've known well: they like to overpronounce their words, like overly actor-ish news broadcasters. I've never been sure whether this is because they are so in love with the sound of their own voices, or because it is just their naturally uninhibited way of being emphatic -- or both.  

That, um, concludes this, uh, post.


Anonymous said...

- Ed

John Craig said...

Ed --
Perfect. Thank you. I've never thought of Obama as a sociopath, although he's obviously an extremely narcissistic personality. The troubling thing is, he's also a con man, and con men are often sociopaths. He was unquestionably lying during the segment you just linked where he distanced himself from Jeremiah Wright. Surprising that Letterman would run that.