Thursday, October 20, 2011

Know anyone who talks about food and money too much? They could be a psychopath

If someone you know uses the past tense and likes to talk about what he eats, then beware - he or she could be a psychopath.

Researchers have identified the speech patterns which are the tell-tale signs somebody could be the next Hannibal Lecter.

Those who use verbal stumbles like ‘um’ and ‘ah’ should be treated with caution whilst anybody showing a lack of emotion could be trouble too.

Other tics which should be of concern are focusing attention on basic needs like food and money or speaking about crimes in the past tense.

The researchers found that psychopaths use twice as many words for basic needs such as eating and drinking - a reflection of the psychopathic world view that everything is 'theirs' to take.

The researchers claim that whilst we are able to choose which words we use in day-to-day speech, we unconsciously choose functional words like ‘the’ or the tense of the verbs or the vocabulary sets we use.

With careful analysis these cues can show us who is a psychopath and who isn’t.

The study involved interviews with 52 convicted murderers, of whom 14 were classified as psychopaths.

Their responses were analysed in detail by a computer programme which looked for patterns in what they said.

Jeffrey Hancock, the lead researcher and an associate professor in communications at Cornell University in New York, said that overuse of the past tense demonstrated psychological detachment.

The research found that psychopaths tended to dwell on subjects such as food and money in conversation. Overall, psychopaths tend to use twice as many words relating to such basic needs as food and money

The use of dysfluencies like ‘uh’ and um’ was also a way of ‘putting the mask of sanity on’.

He added: ‘Psychopaths talked a lot about what they ate that day (of the murder). They talked about money more often.’

Overall psychopaths use twice as many words relating to basic needs like eating and drinking as ordinary people.

This fitted in with their world view that everything around them was theirs to take, the authors said in their report.

Psychopaths also used more subordinating conjunctions like ‘because’ which is explained by their interest in cause and effect.

The report says: ‘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)’.

Just one per cent of the population are to some extent a psychopath but that has not stopped Hollywood from making them into villains hundreds of times.

Arguably the most famous was Hannibal Lecter who famously talked about how he liked to eat his victims’ brains in ‘Silence of the Lambs’.


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