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Psychopaths Share Similar Speech Patterns When Detailing Their Crimes, Study Shows

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All psychopaths might not be the same, but they share similar speech patterns when they recount their crimes, new research shows.

Researchers at Cornell University found that psychopaths lack emotion and speak in terms of cause-and-effect when describing their crimes, LiveScience explains.

Psychopaths also tend to focus "their attention on basic needs, such as food, drink and money" rather than social needs, LiveScience reported, such as family or religion. In fact, many psychopaths recounted what they ate the day of their crime during the interview.

Researchers determined the results by using software to analyze the speech patterns of 52 convicted murders -- 14 who qualified as psychopaths -- as they detailed their crimes. All 14 psychopaths shared the same speech qualities, according to the study.

Compared to the 38 convicted murderers in the sample, the psychopaths tended to use words such as "because" or "so that," to imply that their crime was a goal that needed to be achieved, the Deccan Herald points out.

Psychopaths also used more "ums" and "uhs", which researchers say indicate attempts to imply that retelling their crimes is difficult.

The results suggest that psychopaths "operate on a primitive but rational level," researchers wrote in the study.

One researcher recalls how psychopaths make for interesting interview subjects because of their "cunning and manipulative
nature."

"It is unbelievable. ... You can spend two or three hours and come out feeling like you are hypnotized," Michael Woodworth, study co-author and psychology professor specializing in psychopathy, told LiveScience.

Results of the study, "Hungry Like The Wolf: A Word-Pattern Analysis Of The Language Of Psychopaths," were published in the September issue of Legal and Criminological Psychology.

Psychopathy is often confused for other personality disorders. Scientific American reports how psychopathy is determined, and the characteristics of the disorder:

The best-established measure of psychopathy, the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), developed by University of British Columbia psychologist Robert D. Hare, requires a standardized interview with subjects and an examination of their file records, such as their criminal and educational histories. Analyses of the PCL-R reveal that it comprises at least three overlapping, but separable, constellations of traits: interpersonal deficits (such as grandiosity, arrogance and deceitfulness), affective deficits (lack of guilt and empathy, for instance), and impulsive and criminal behaviors (including sexual promiscuity and stealing).

Recently, a small study showed that bosses are four times more likely to be psychopaths than the general population. The finding was reported in the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work. However, the number of psychopaths among business bosses is still low -- comprising 4 percent of them, in the study -- while 1 percent of the general population have psychopathic tendencies.

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