Psychopaths: it’s in the words

I’m now on a very interesting chapter in “Without Conscience” which discusses some of the strange verbal tics and wordplay employed by psychopaths. The book notes that they often make two contradictory statements side by side. For example…

A man serving a term for armed robbery replied to the testimony of an eyewitness, “He’s lying. I wasn’t there. I should’ve blown his fucking head off.”

or…

When asked if he had ever committed a violent offense, a man serving time for theft answered, “No, but I once had to kill someone.”

The author, Robert Hare, contemplates what might be going on in such situations. He notes that (as keen eyed readers of this blog are no doubt aware) the left hemisphere of the brain is very focused on language processing, whereas the right hemisphere is more tied to spatial perception, imagery and emotions. But some people, especially dyslexics and stutterers, have a condition where language processing is found in both hemispheres. Hare states…

New experimental evidence suggests that bilateral language processes are also characteristic of psychopathy. This leads me to speculate that part of the tendency for psychopaths to make contradictory statements is related to an inefficient “line of authority” — each hemisphere tries to run the show, with the result that speech is poorly integrated and monitored.

This brings up an obvious question: are dyslexics and stutterers psychopaths? It seems like we should probably lock them all up, just to be on the safe side.

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