How To Spot A Psychopath Through 5 Telltale Traits, According To Research

Look for these traits that secretly give them away.

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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. So if you're on a sketchy date and the guy is giving psychopath vibes, just look for any weird speech patterns he has, and then hightail it out of there.

RELATED: 7 Major Differences Between A Psychopath And A Sociopath You Need To Know


Here's how to spot a psychopath through 5 telltale traits, according to research:

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.

RELATED: 7 Rare Personality Traits That Make You A Psychopath Magnet

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. This one's hard to tell because I always say 'uh' and 'um,' just to give myself time to think before I say something.


4. They shy away from any moral compass topics

Non-psychopathic people talked about religion and family when they'd just committed a crime, whereas the psychopath steered clear away from those high-level needs. 

RELATED: 1 In 100 People Are Psychopaths — The 3 Personality Traits That Give Them Away

5. They speak a lot in the 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? Could the person you're thinking about perhaps be you?


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Christine Schoenwald is a writer, performer, and frequent contributor to YourTango. She's had articles featured in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Woman's Day, among many others.