How To Spot A Psychopath Through 5 Telltale Traits (Says Science)

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They essentially give themselves away.

There's something about your neighbor that just gives you the creeps. You wouldn't be surprised if he was a psychopath of some kind, but how can you tell if he's really one?

One way to tell if someone is a psychopath is to listen to their speech pattern.

A team of researchers at Cornell University conducted a study about the speech patterns of 52 convicted murderers, 14 of them classified as psychopathic, and came up with some very interesting results. The team asked the murderers to describe their crimes in detail, which they recorded and later converted the speech into text. 

What did they learn? Psychopaths who make up an estimated 1 percent of the population tend to use identifying speech patterns. 

Here are the main "tells" of a psychopath.

1. They make cause and effect statements. Psychopaths are more likely, when discussing their actions, to use subordinating conjunctions like "because," and "so that," suggesting their crime was a goal that needed to be achieved.

2. They focus on food. Researchers found that psychopaths use a large number of words related to basic human needs such as eating, drinking and money. Psychopaths often included details of meals they ate on the day of their crime, perhaps revealing their predatory leanings.

3. They use a lot of "ums" and "uhs," but not because they can't think of the right word. Jeffrey Hancock, a Cornell professor, says, "We think the 'uhs' and 'ums' are about putting the mask of sanity on an absence of remorse.

4. They shy away from any moral compass topics. Non-psychopathic people talked about religion and family when they'd just committed a crime, where the psychopath steered clear away from those high-level needs.

5. They speak a lot in past tense. If you speak of something in the past tense, it gives you a psychological detachment. This is especially helpful for police. Hancock says, "Knowing a suspect is a psychopath can affect how law enforcement conducts investigations and interrogations.

So, what do you think? Is someone you know a psychopath? How many of these traits does that person in the back of your mind have?


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