UPDATED FOR 2021. Psychopaths tend to dominate conversation. Many of us know this first hand, but the reasons why psychopaths talk so much have been documented in a scientific paper published by the Public Library of Science, PLOS.org.
Researchers brought together same-sex college students in groups of three people. None of them knew each other. The students were asked to engage in small talk. The conversations were videotaped, and researchers later analyzed who did all the talking.
It turned out that study participants with higher scores in primary psychopathy, as measured by the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (LSRP), spoke more words and controlled the conversation more than people with lower scores.
No other traits, such as physical strength, facial attractiveness, or socioeconomic status, were linked to conversation dominance.
The scientific paper
The paper, Subclinical primary psychopathy, but not physical formidability or attractiveness, predicts conversational dominance in a zero-acquaintance situation, was written by Joseph H. Manson, Matthew M. Gervais, Daniel M. T. Fessler, and Michelle Kline.
The researchers wanted to find out what traits caused people to dominate conversation among strangers. They analyzed:
- Physical formidability, meaning a person’s size and strength
- Primary and secondary psychopathy, as indicated by the self-report test
- Physical attractiveness
- Socioeconomic status
- Social status, as judged by clothing, hairstyle,
- Perceived prestige of academic major
- College class level
Primary and secondary psychopathy refers to the two “factors” of the disorder.
Primary psychopathy is related to interpersonal and affective aspects of the personality, such as manipulativeness and lack of empathy. Secondary psychopathy is related to lifestyle and antisocial aspects, such as impulsivity and criminal behavior.
When it came to dominating conversation, the only trait that mattered was primary psychopathy. Both men and women who scored high in psychopathy dominated the conversations. The men also used fewer emotional words.
Primary psychopathy was associated with using a lot of words, but secondary psychopathy was associated with using fewer words.
Why psychopaths talk so much
The researchers speculated that psychopaths used their glib and charming verbal skills to gather social capital. Or, they were looking for ammunition. The researchers wrote:
One alternative is that individuals high in primary psychopathy specifically leverage opportunities to assess and manipulate new acquaintances by controlling conversations and gleaning useful information about them, that is, they use conversation as a means for exploitation.
The conclusion of the study was that psychopaths talk a lot, with the objective being to extract information from others that they may be able to use for exploitation.
Read the study:
Link supplied by a Lovefraud reader.
Lovefraud initially published this article on December 22, 2014.