Psychopathy Tweets: Too Many Statistics, Not Enough Proof of Concept

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

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On Sunday, Defcon 20 had a talk that I had previously written about on the idea of using statistical analysis of word use to determine psychopathy in individuals online.

As I sat through the talk and steadily watched people get up and leave I too had the urge to walk away as well.

However, I had a mission and that was to confirm if there was any evidence that would say to me this was a viable means of detection for psychopaths.

What I came out with, after many slides of numbers, was “nope not really”, which I pretty much had thought before. There are just too many variables to this type of venture and you would, in the end, need to have a trained psychoanalyst to talk to the individual to determine whether or not they are a true psychopath.

Sorry Sugg... It was an interesting idea and I am wondering just where this will go if the author of the original paper tries to expand upon this process. You see, for this to work online possibly, is that the trained individual would chat with the “patient” or “UNSUB” as the case may be, to ask specific questions to elicit responses.

See, that would work I think, but it is a manual process not a big data solution. So, while it was an interesting trip into what psychopathy is and possibly how to spot it in word use, it was a failed experiment in my book.

Now, another twist on this idea might be to take the transcripts of anonymous and other IRC chats and wash that through your program… There’s a lot going on there mentally and might show some traits, but, are they really suffering from some sort of psychiatric illness or are they just maladjusted?

This has been something I have written about before an the vernacular used as well as the mindset that seems to be prevalent warrants some looking at perhaps. Maybe next year?

Overall though, I surely hope that the governments and law enforcement bodies out there do not take up this idea and begin to mine people’s chat logs for psychopathy.

*shudder*

Ding Dong! It’s the forensic psychiatrist... We saw your tweets and thought we’d have a chat? What? these cops? They’re just here to visit too!

K.

Cross-posted fro Krypt3ia

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Todd Raleigh I too attended the talk and can imagine that it appealed to psychologists more than hackers, but that should not distract from the legitimacy of the work. You assert that detecting personality traits isn’t possible without a trained individual, yet there is a growing body of research that consistently refutes this. If you are referring to the detection of a psychopath rather than psychopathic traits, then your points have validity, but they were discussing psychopathy as a scale.

My background? I’m a psychiatrist who’s attended Defcon since DC14.
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