Psychopathic killers: Computerized text analysis uncovers the word patterns of a predator

By Jeffrey T. Hancock, Michael T. Woodworth, Stephen Porter

The words of psychopathic murderers match their personalities, which reflect selfishness, detachment from their crimes and emotional flatness, says Jeff Hancock, Cornell professor of computing and information science, and colleagues at the University of British Columbia in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology.

Computerized text analysis shows that psychopathic killers make identifiable word choices beyond conscious control when talking about their crimes. This research could lead to new tools for diagnosis and treatment, and has implications law enforcement and social media.

Hancock and his colleagues analyzed stories told by 14 psychopathic male murderers held in Canadian prisons and compared them with 38 convicted murderers who were not diagnosed as psychopathic. Each subject was asked to describe his crime in detail. Their stories were taped, transcribed and subjected to computer analysis.


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