An AI Can Identify Psychopaths through Their Head Movements

Researchers have just developed an algorithm that can identify psychopathic traits from a person’s head motion during questioning. This method confirms other studies on nonverbal behaviors associated with deviant personalities.

Prison Fence

Prison Fence

Despite popular belief, not all psychopaths are potential killers. Symptoms of psychopathy include a lack of conscience or guilt, lack of empathy, self-centeredness, pathological lying, repeated violation of social norms, victimization, and guilt, and intolerance of frustration. These are accompanied by high levels of irritability and violent, impulsive behavior, which explains why many psychopaths are in prison.

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How do you recognize a psychopath? According to researchers at the University of New Mexico, by the position of his head during interrogation. They developed artificial intelligence that can interpret people’s head movements during forensic examinations. The researchers examined video recordings of prison interviews with 507 male prisoners between the ages of 18 and 62. Psychopathic traits were characterized using Dr. Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) test, which assesses a person’s psychopathic or antisocial tendencies. This method, which is used as a benchmark in the medical field, is primarily used to diagnose psychopaths in prisons or psychiatric hospitals.

“Psychopaths have a tendency to look directly into the camera and tilt their heads less.

The algorithm found a “strong correlation” between psychopathic traits and certain nonverbal signs, such as holding the head still during interviews. “Specifically, psychopathic subjects tended to look directly and fixedly into the camera and tilted their heads less often,” the authors note in their study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality. “Subjects with multiple, severe, and persistent antisocial behaviors showed a more rigid and focused head orientation during the interview,” they added.

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This isn’t the first time researchers have tried to detect psychopathy using nonverbal cues. As early as 900 B.C., it was noted that people who were good at deception showed excessive agitation, the study recalls. Other studies have linked psychopathic behavior to variations in eye movements, blinking, and hand gestures. An American psychiatrist also stated that psychopathy can be identified by certain facial micro-impressions.

However, the analysis and quantification of these signals are often subject to interpretation bias. The use of artificial intelligence could therefore allow for a more reliable approach and diagnosis. For example, video analysis has been used to identify people’s depressive and suicidal tendencies based on their voice modulation.

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A lot of information is contained in the body language and interpersonal dynamics of clinical interviews,” says Kent Kiehl, a professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico and lead author of the study. Decoding these interviews can provide useful details about individual differences in behavior among inmates. At your next family dinner, don’t jump to conclusions if you notice that your brother is looking at you in a funny way without moving his head. He may just have a stiff neck.


Quantifying the psychopathic stare: Automated assessment of head motion is related to antisocial traits in forensic interviews

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