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Dublin: 2 °C Monday 16 December, 2019

Can Twitter detect psychopathy?

It can give an indication anyway, especially if you use words like ‘die’ quite a bit.

Image: Doug Peters/Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment


That’s according to a joint study carried out by Florida Atlantic University and the Online Privacy Foundation in London.

While psychopaths are usually difficult to identify in real life, the way they tweet may go some small way towards spotting who flaunts anti-social tendencies and who does not.

Using a computer programme to scan the tweets of nearly 2,927 volunteers, the researchers found that 1.4 per cent of them showed psychopathic tendencies. Looking at profile information, the number of tweets sent and the words in those tweets, they created psychopathy scores based on a checklist developed at the University of British Colombia in Canada.

Frequent use of swear words like “die”, “kill” and “bury” indicated psychopathic tendencies.

After then completing a personality test of the 2,927 people, around 41 were identifiedas  certifiable psychopaths. The computer program identified 29.

However, there are problems with the computer program. It cannot tell if someone is using swear words such as kill in an off hand way such as “I’d kill for a banana”.

“We found that there was a relatinship between psychopathy and twitter usage” Chris Sumner of the Online Privacy Foundation told “This supports two previous studies which looked at linguistic analysis and psychopathy. But where this is more useful is actually looking at anti-social traits across the whole population” rather than identifying psychopaths he said.

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