Can we detect that someone is a psychopath just watching it? In any case, this is what American researchers from the University of New Mexico assure. They have, in fact, succeeded in creating an algorithm capable of detecting psychopaths thanks to the only head movements they have during their interrogations.
A groundbreaking artificial intelligence-based method that demonstrates the power of body language interpretation. The researchers’ findings were published in the Journal of Research in Personality. Their study shows that inmates psychopaths tend to exhibit reduced head movements during interrogations.
Psychopaths: fixed gaze, head tilted less
In practice, to reach these conclusions, they analyzed the videos of interrogations carried out on 507 detained men aged 18 to 62 and whose duration varied between one and four hours. As a result, the algorithm revealed a “strong correlation” between the antisocial characteristics of psychopathy and the stationary head positions of those who suffer. This is particularly the case with fixed gaze.
“In particular, we observe that individuals psychopaths have tendency to look directly at the camera and fixedly, and have less tendency to tilt the head“, indeed, noted the American researchers in their study. They, in fact, noticed that “individuals with diverse, severe and persistent antisocial behavior exhibit a more rigid and focused orientation of their head during interrogations”.
“I interviewed people with psychopathic characteristics raised for more than 20 years. During these interviews, it is clear that the style of presentation of these people is different from the others”, explained to PsyPost Kent A. Kiehl, one of the study’s authors, professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico and author of The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience.
Interviews were analyzed for scoring and diagnosis using The Psychopathy Checklist or Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised. This questionnaire helps detect emotional, lifestyle and antisocial development traits related to psychopathy. The researchers noted that inmates with more psychopathic personality traits tended to display more stationary head positions during their conversation.
Lots of information in body language
For a long time, researchers have tried to identify the physical behaviors characteristic of psychopaths. This new study adds reliability to this diagnosis usually subject to interpretation.
“A lot of information is present in body language and the social interactions that occur during interviews. The decoding of these interviews can provide useful details on the individual differences of the people observed”, specifies A. Kiehl.
The study author cautions, however, that future research is needed to examine additional populations (such as women and adolescents) and to test other variables (such as eye movements). “It was a first proof-of-concept study. More studies must follow and extend this work to additional samples,” concludes the psychology professor.
As a reminder, a psychopath is not a serial killer or a hyperviolent person. This is an individual integrated into civil society suffering from certain personality disorders such as the desire to control others, lying and manipulation, violent reactions to criticism. It’s a very little known serious illness which affects 3% of men and 1% of women.
It is a permanent disorder of behavioral development characterized by impulsive associative behaviors and for which the subject feels no guilt. This psychological disorder can interact with and/or accentuate other disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar depression. There are several degrees in the disease that can range from moderate psychopathy to acting out criminally and dangerously for others.