Psychopaths use words related to food, sex and money twice as often as non-psychopaths, a study finds.
Psychopaths are also less likely to use words related to family, religion and social needs.
The trends in word use reflect how psychopaths display excessive selfishness, detachment and emotional flatness.
The results come from an analysis of stories told by 14 psychopathic murderers in Canadian prisons.
They were compared with 38 convicted murderers who were not psychopaths.
Each criminal talked about their crime in detail and then the words they used were analysed.
Along with words related to money, sex and food, psychopaths were also more likely to explain their crimes using explanatory words like ‘because’, ‘since’ and ‘so that’.
Professor Jeff Hancock, the study’s first author, said:
“Previous work has looked at how psychopaths use language.
Our paper is the first to show that you can use automated tools to detect the distinct speech patterns of psychopaths.”
Psychopaths were found to be less fluent in their speech, perhaps to frame their story in the most positive way possible.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology (Hancock et al., 2011).