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Can You Tell Psychopaths Simply by the Words They Use?

Maybe so, according to psychologists studying convicted murderers. In a new study of previously diagnosed psychopaths and non-psychopathic murderers, the researchers were able to discern who are psychopathic by analyzing their word choices:

Psychopaths were far more likely to say they committed the crime because of personal needs, like food and money, and they described their deeds in the past tense, suggesting it happened a long time ago and there was little that the perpetrator could do to prevent it. They seemed emotionally detached from the murder, and as might be expected, they showed no remorse. [...]

The non-psychopathic killers, by contrast, were far more likely to describe their past in terms that reflected social needs, like family, religion and spirituality.

"In the context of a committed murder, it is likely that the non-psychopaths were aware of and affected by the profound effects their crime would have had on their own families and the victim's family," the study says. No such concern was shown among the psychopaths.

The bottom line: "Psychopaths operate on a primitive but rational level," say the researchers.


Previously on Neatorama: Psychologist: Leaders Are Four Times as Likely as the Average Person to Be Psychopaths

Psychopaths have decreased activation of the orbital-frontal cortex, which can help explain their behavior (if one understands what each part of the brain does and how they relate to each other).

Not surprisingly, psychopaths can be extremely humanitarian and become leaders in many positive social movements. They tend to be better suited for the task than most people. However, they lack "intimacy" and are generally not reliable for emotional support.

Most psychopaths are "successful" or "pro-social" psychopaths and are not murderers, these are the people we vote into office.
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[edited - no personal attack please]. When we are talking about attribution biases like those mentioned in the OP, it is important to understand the functions of the Orbital-frontal lobe and that this function is lacking in psychopathy. It adds a nuance to the subject that your overly simplified models can't account for.
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I have had the fortune, or misfortune, to meet a few psychopaths. Some criminals and some businessmen. One characteristic, among others, they shared was how incredibly charismatic they could be if they wished to be. I believe they can understand empathy but don't feel the emotion.
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The problem I see with any study that purports to be looking at "psychopaths" is that the diagnosis is very subjective (and as I understand it is usually based on a now mostly discounted "checklist" developed by a psychologist in the 50's or 60's) and is really not very well-defined. I read a lenthy article about it once that had a long section about a long-term inmate at an institution whose doctors explained his continued confinemant by pointing out that he was obviously psychopathic because he was so good at acting normal.
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