The Language of Psychopaths: Warning Signs for Law Enforcement




Smedley, Emily

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The proposed research explores the language of psychopaths through their word choices, references and usage of figures of speech. Results from the study may be used for profiling purposes or in interrogation settings. Psychopaths’ language is explored using pre-recorded interviews and is compared to a matched sample’s pre-recorded interviews. All subjects in the study are murderers. The study utilizes a mixed methods design called sequential exploratory strategy that allows the researcher to focus on qualitative data while supporting findings with quantitative results and combine the two analyses. The researcher has six hypotheses: 1) Psychopathic offenders will use more past tense lexical verbs than the control 2) Psychopathic offenders will have a higher number of cause and effect words than the control group 3) Psychopaths will refer more to primal needs than the control 4) Psychopaths will make fewer references to social needs including family, spiritual and religious references as compared to the control 5) Psychopaths’ narratives/interviews will include more disfluencies/speech fillers than the control group 6) Psychopaths will use fewer figures of speech than the control with the exception of sarcasm. The usage of 10 figures of speech will be collected: metaphors, similes, personification, analogies, cacophonies, chiasmuses, hyperboles, oxymorons, puns, and sarcasm. Results support hypotheses one, two, five, and hypothesis six not including the exception of sarcasm.



Psychopaths, Language, Law enforcement, Linguistic cues