New research may be able to discover tweeting psychopaths

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(CBS) - In case you find yourself being tweeted at by a psychopathic killer (in case!), have no fear, researchers may find a way to spot them -- using said psycho's own tweets!

Using a text analysis program, professors Jeff Hancock from Cornell University, and Michael T. Woodworth and Stephen Porter from the University of British Columbia are trying to discover if we can spot a psychopath using anything he or she has written, from a tweet to a blog post.

Most experts count roughly one percent of the population as psychotic. The researchers want to take methods used to analyze the language of psychopaths and apply it to the general population using social media.

We caught up with Hancock who told us that with the number of written content online, they really can analyze that data to determine if a person has (O-M-G!) psychotic characteristics!!!

An example of how text analysis would be useful is a case like the Long Island serial killer, who found his victims on Craigslist. The killer lured victims using the bulletin board website's online dating section.

The researchers studied hardcore criminals, including "14 psychopathic and 38 non-psychopathic homicide offenders."

What are some of the verbal clues?

According to the study's abstract, psychopaths often use cause-and-effect descriptors like "because" and "since." They tend to focus on material needs like money, food and drinks. There are fewer references to family or religion.

There was a higher frequency of "uh" and "um," which indicates that emotional events are difficult for them to describe. Finally, they tend to talk in the past tense, which indicates psychological detachment from an incident.

Because they take the text and calculate percentage, it makes it possible to use data as little as 140 character tweets.

The study to be released is called, "Hungry like the wolf: A word-pattern analysis of the language of psychopaths," and will be published in the Legal and Criminological Psychology journal.

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