Cornell University’s Jeffrey Hancock, along with Michael Woodworth of the University of British Columbia, have been studying how convicted killers (including 18 “certified psychopaths”) speak, in hopes of helping detectives identify suspects via social media, online postings, texts, and, of course, the traditional interrogative methods, too. So, how do you know if you speak like a psychopath? Some clues, after the jump!
• Psychopaths tend to use the past tense more frequently, perhaps to suggest detachment from the crime.
• Look out for frequent “uhs” and “ums” — they might indicate it’s difficult to talk about an event — or they might just indicate someone uncomfortable with speaking.
• Psychopaths more frequently use “cause-and-effect words” like “so” and “because.”
• They also speak a lot about material needs — what they ate, money, etc. — instead of love, family, or other social needs.
The researchers “hope the exercise will determine if the language patterns used in social media can show whether a person is a psychopath.”
Lessons: Always speak in the present tense, and watch your tweets for “ums” and “uhs”! Also, that person who’s always posting about their delicious sandwich on Facebook is clearly a psychopath. Unfriend them immediately. As for people who write in the royal (or “journalistic”) we, we just don’t know.