The Linguistic Output of Psychopathic Offenders During a PCL-R Interview [2016]

We used text analysis software to examine the linguistic features of the speech of 21 psychopathic and 45 other offenders during the interview part of a Psychopathy Checklist–Revised (PCL-R) assessment. Regression analysis was run on the linguistic categories to determine which were the best predictors of psychopathy scores. Relative to the other offenders, psychopaths used more disfluencies (“you know”) and personal pronouns, made fewer references to other people (e.g., personal names, family), and were also less emotionally expressive. In particular, a low frequency of anxiety-related words and a more frequent use of personal pronouns were the most significant predictors of PCL-R scores and accounted for 25% of the variance. These findings for the first time afford a unique glimpse into the language produced during the PCL-R assessment interview. In addition to enhancing our understanding of psychopathic speech, these results may provide interviewers additional insights relevant to the assessment and therapeutic process.

Marina T. Le, Michael Woodworth, Lisa Gillman, Erin Hutton, Robert D. Hare

Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol 44, Issue 4, 2017