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Why psychopaths talk so much

Psychopaths tend to dominate conversation. Many of us know this first hand, but now it’s been documented in a scientific paper published last month 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 paper, Subclinical primary psychopathy, but not physical formidability or attractiveness, predicts conversational dominance in a zero-acquaintance situation, was written by Josehp 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.

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:

Subclinical primary psychopathy, but not physical formidability or attractiveness, predicts conversational dominance in a zero-acquaintance situation, on Plosone.org.

Link supplied by a Lovefraud reader.

 



41 Comments on "Why psychopaths talk so much"

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  1. slimone says:

    When I first got rid of the spath, after he had waged his discard on me, I found the silence really difficult. I mean, in the beginning of his being gone I was so wounded that all that new silence, calm, time, etc…was so filled with pain, shame, and longing. It was really hard to take. I had gotten rather used to having ‘no life’. Then, after his departure, what life I did have left was rotten and falling to bits. Plus, like so many of us, at that point I felt like it was ‘all my fault’ for being so stupid, gullible, and trusting to let such an obvious creep into my life, that I spent a lot of my new time hating myself.

    That was the hardest period. The time when I thought that the very person who had created the mess would some how be able to make it all better if they would just come back.

    This is a very vulnerable period in a person’s recovery. This is the time to completely maintain NO contact. Eventually the silence becomes a gift. But it certainly takes time to feel that way about it. Or for me it did.



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    • firstvictim says:

      How I wish this website was available when I was going through my hell of a sham “marriage”. I feel your pain. He would torture me with his actions, yet he was the one I needed to comfort me, a sick, vicious cycle. I’m so glad I was able to get out and my children are adults now. I despised myself for ruining my future and affecting my children by my “choice” of a spouse. The devil got some things, but he didn’t get ALL he wanted. My children are doing well today and are aware of those “kind of people”.



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      • flicka says:

        I ditto the wish that this site had been available in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s to help me figure out what was wrong in my 23 year marriage. My bad choice of marriage partner likely wouldn’t have been prevented but I might have had the knowledge and courage to leave before giving birth to what later became 5 psychotic children. Knowledge is power!



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  2. still reeling says:

    Very interesting study and article. Now, for certain, I feel my experience was most certainly with a socio/psychopath.
    The first time I met him, (it was a business meeting), he mumbled something I couldn’t fully understand before even greeting me, which I immediately thought was a bit odd but it didn’t register much. When I tried to respond, he cut me off. Again, I figured he was just another overly busy egotistical jerk and who cares. I really didn’t want to be there anyway and figured this was the first and last time I’d be dealing with him.

    During our meeting, he was fine, very professional, friendly, etc.
    Afterwards, even though I told him not to worry about it, he walked me out of the office. Waiting at the elevator, he was COMPLETELY SILENT and expressionless. I was uncomfortable, as it was a long wait. Once we got off the elevator, and I was about ready to say goodbye and depart, all of a sudden, he burst into a smile and said something suggestive. I was SHOCKED. It was definitely a measured phrase that he could later defend if I ratted him out, which I definitely should have done as soon as I got home. I decided to just let it go.

    After we started working together, and he became flirtatious, it was *always* done with unromantic, bland phrases. I considered because we were both married and he had a responsible job, he had to be careful. He always dominated the convo, not because he was overly talkative, but because he just saw me as something to manipulate, a bauble for his amusement and whatever he thought he could get from me or use me for. As such, he just interrupted me or went into the “stare” when I talked. He did not hear me. He knew how to say just the right things, suggestive but not indefensible. However, once in awhile I received crazy over-the-top comments that left me speechless, which I think were a characteristic part of secondary psychopathy: impulsivity. He certainly kept me in a muddle of emotion and confusion.

    He once became angry because he said something very bizarre and suggestive to me over the phone, knowing my husband was right there in the room. He asked me if I realized how highly he thought of me (not in those words…much more flirtatiously). I hardly knew the guy and had just begun the job. I was, once again, freaked out. I had no idea where the hell that came from. I said, “Um, no, I did not know that.” He just sighed with a cold frustrated laugh. “Am I going to have to work harder on this dummy to get to her?” Oh G-d.

    There is so much more that fits right into the description in this article. The path in my life fits both categories. He talked a lot at times and often was silent. I’m hoping someday to be able to find something positive in this experience. I feel nothing for this creature anymore and would love to hear he was in a facility for the criminally insane or something of that ilk. He needs to be away from people that he can hurt.



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  3. jeannie812 says:

    I remember that; a lot of talk about nothing. He would almost whisper what he had in mind for me, didn’t quite look at me, had his head bent away from me. I didn’t quite catch what he said, and when I asked him to repeat, he walked away in silence. Then he’d come walking back towards me coming on strong with yadda, yadda, yadda talking a lot of talk about nothing. Somewhere in this confusion is mention of me flipping him $20.00. While he mixes it up with lots of talk about nothing. AND, I better not stop and say STOP, what are you talking about? Because he would scream at me for next hour if I ever tried to “pull” that. Instead I pulled $20.00 out of my purse and handed it over.

    It was not thousands. But, 20.00 here, there, and then 40, and then 100.00, and on and on for years, and it adds up.

    It’s not in a parasites interest to kill its host when a slow feed will sustain the parasite for years.



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  4. Escapefor1 says:

    OMG, my psychopath/NPD talked so much. He just would not stop. He went on and on to all who would listen. He put together groups to do bogus projects as a big-shot leader, in part, just to hear himself talk. And was pompous in social settings, dominating the conversation.

    It was so bad that I joked he should get a cell phone implant in his head.



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  5. princessleonor says:

    So accurate and confirmation for me. My exhusband which is also a narcissist talked sooo much and would put me to sleep or frustrate me because he wouldn’t shut up, even if he knew what he was talking about and very smart, it was just creepy, is how he came off. He was charming at first but then it was creepy how much he talked.



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  6. roar2014 says:

    This is beyond accurate! My spath dominated every single conversation he had! OMG! I pitied the poor, shy souls that were around him trying to get a word in edgewise, as they couldn’t. Even if they actually got two words out, he constantly interrupted people. It was tedious and aggravating.

    I once told him that when he blathered on endlessly people would roll their eyes up into their heads as if they were reptiles on a rock. Of course, he didn’t get it. As for me, I barely listened to him after awhile. As a matter of fact, I barely remember most of our conversations because I took off someplace else in my head. I nodded at appropriate times but honestly? I was gone.



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  7. lhudson65 says:

    It just occurred to me my ex Mother in law, Step mom to my Spath, will talk and talk and talk. She doesn’t really listen, but she gabs a lot… His Father is the same way, as is he. Creepy to say the least. She feeds me stories about reasons why I should be concerned and leery of my ex and her hubby, but then expects it to not have an impact on me. She’s a gaslighter I’m assuming. They all freak me out, cause me unease..



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