Researchers Use Text, Computers to Spot Unique Language of Psychopathic Killers

Released: 10/11/2011 10:50 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Cornell University
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Citations Legal and Criminological Psychology (September 14, 2011)

WHAT: Cornell Computer and Information Science Professor Jeff Hancock talks about the social media, law enforcement and broader implications of his new research into computerized text analysis and the minds of psychopathic murderers at the next Inside Cornell media luncheon.

WHEN: Monday, Oct. 17, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: Cornell’s ILR Conference Center, sixth floor, 16 E. 34th St., Manhattan.

MEDIA NOTE: You are invited to attend this special journalists-only lunch with Jeff Hancock. To RSVP, please contact John Carberry at (607) 255-5353 or (607) 227-0767, or by e-mail at johncarberry@cornell.edu.

Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – It turns out, with the help of powerful computer analysis, words may be the window to the soul.

Using computerized text analysis, Cornell University Computing and Information Science Professor Jeff Hancock found that psychopathic murderers make identifiable word choices – beyond their conscious control – when talking about their crimes. The words of these criminals match their personalities, which reflect selfishness, detachment from their crimes and emotional “flatness,” Hancock said. Among other tendencies identified by Hancock and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology, psychopaths used more conjunctions such as “because “ or “since,” and used twice as many words relating to their physical needs.

In the new reality of massive social media communication, according to Hancock, who also is a professor of communication at Cornell, the ability to identify these patterns could have broad implications – from helping clinicians identify people in need of treatment, to aiding law enforcement officials tracking suspects across Twitter and Facebook.

On Monday, Oct. 17, at Cornell’s ILR Conference Center in Midtown, Hancock will discuss the complete details and implications of this study. Joining the conversation remotely from his office at the University of British Columbia will be practicing clinician and Associate Professor of Psychology Michael Woodworth, co-author of the study and one of the world’s leading experts on psychopathy and criminal behavior.

About Inside Cornell: This event is part of a monthly series held in New York City featuring high-interest experts working at Cornell University's centers in Ithaca, Manhattan and around the world. The free, catered lunch sessions are on-the-record, and media members are welcome to record video and audio as desired.


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