Thursday, December 26, 2013

Speech patterns give away psychopaths

From:  Mother Nature Network

ByWynne Parry, LiveScience

Psychopaths prone to using the past tense, making cause and effect statements and using 'uh' and 'um.' 

Police line

NEW YORK — 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. [10 Contested Death Penalty Cases]
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.  MORE

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