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Tiny physical ticks might be subtle warning signs that you’re in the company of a psychopath.
The personality characteristics that point to psychopathy include antisocial behavior, remorselessness, deception and interpersonal manipulation.
But studies suggest that people who do not yawn when they see someone else do it score higher on psychopathic traits.
The theory is that contagious yawning is driven by empathy – something psychopaths lack. Meanwhile, research suggests there are four other tell-tale physical signs that you’re dealing with a psychopath.
Studies suggest that people who do not yawn when they see someone else do it score higher on psychopathic traits (stock)
Less likely to yawn contagiously
A study conducted by Baylor University in Texas in 2015 analyzed 135 students tested for traits such as Machiavellian egocentricity (a tendency only to consider personal needs), cold-heartedness and rebellious nonconformity.
As is widely known, most people will yawn if someone around them yawns and shows signs of fatigue. The students were shown video clips of people using different facial expressions, including yawning.
The ones who scored highly for cold-heartedness were less likely to yawn.
Brian Rundle, a PhD student involved with the study, told The Times: ‘One of the biggest lines of evidence is that (contagious yawning is) very much related to empathy.
‘While this is a really interesting finding, it doesn’t mean that if you’re not affected by a contagious yawn, there’s something wrong with you.
‘There’s some evidence to show that in baboons, dogs, or chimps, the alpha male tends to yawn first,’ he added.
‘If you’re sitting around the campfire, it cues everyone else to yawn, and instead of going to bed at separate times, they all do it simultaneously.’
Other signs include beat hand gestures that psychopaths like Charles Manson might use to emphasize what they want you to hear and downplay what they do not
Limited head movements
This physical trait was uncovered by a team at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Scientists developed a specific algorithm that analyzes head movements and tested it on 507 inmates during recorded conversations, varying in length from one to two hours.
Inmates with ‘severe and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior’ had more rigid and focused orienting of their head during the session, they found.
The results are interesting because excessive non-verbal cues like head movements, blinks and hand gestures have been linked to deception.
As far back as 900 BC, it was observed that deceitful people demonstrated excessive fidgeting, according to the study.
A stationary stance may be a deliberate tactic employed by psychopaths to counter these potential clues from appearing.
Mainly talk about food, money and sex
Most people love to talk about food, but psychopaths tend to take it to another level.
Researchers at Cornell University compared stories of 14 imprisoned psychopathic male murderers with those of 38 convicted murderers who were not diagnosed as psychopathic.
During the interviews, scientists asked each participant to discuss his crime in detail.
While it was expected that the psychopathic inmates would show no remorse for their crimes, scientists were surprised they were twice as likely as non-psychopaths to discuss three topics: food, money and sex.
The non-psychopaths used more words about social needs, including family, religion and spirituality.
Bernie Madoff is known for a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that eradicated people’s fortunes – both rich and poor
Increased hand gestures
Many people talk with their hands, but psychopaths use more beat hand gestures – rapid movements of the hand that are usually up and down.
These individuals use these movements to manipulate people around them to emphasize the part of a sentence they want us to hear or downplay something they do not.
Psychopaths may tend to fidget more, such as scratching their heads or tugging on jewelry, to distract a person’s attention from inconsistencies in their conversation.
Unusual sleeping habits
When the rest of the world settles for the night, psychopaths prepare to do something creative and productive.
Dr Paul Hokemeyer told Bustle: ‘Some psychopaths do have incredible minds that they need to keep highly stimulated.’
Australian researchers discovered in 2013 that a preference for staying up late or into the early hours is directly linked to anti-social behavior and so-called Dark Triad traits.
The Dark Triad traits include narcissistic and selfish actions, cunning or deceitful Machiavellian behavior and psychopathic tendencies.
The paper from Dr Peter Jonason from the University of Sydney surveyed 263 students online.
Participants were asked about their chronotypes. A person’s chronotype reflects at what time of the day their hormone levels, temperature, brain function, eating and sleeping are most active, change or reach a certain level.
People who are more active and feel more alert in the morning are called ‘larks,’ while people who prefer late evening hours are called ‘owls.’
Questions included, ‘During the first half hour after you wake up in the morning, how do you feel?’
People were then rated based on a narcissism scale and were asked how strongly they agreed with statements including ‘I have a natural talent for influencing people.’
They were additionally asked how they felt about statements made on the psychopathy scale, for example: ‘I think I could beat a lie detector,’ and a Machiavellian scale, such as: ‘It is hard to get ahead without cutting corners here and there.’
Across the 263 students, the darker a participant’s personality score, the more they tended to be an ‘owl’ and said they functioned more effectively in the evening hours