Psychopaths use Language Differently from how Normal, Neurotypical people use it. We often apply more elaborate Meaning, but less Emotional Foundation, to Words than Normal People do because our Brains Function and Process Language, Meaning, and Emotion Differently from Non-Psychopathic People’s Brains.
Psychopathy researchers and psychologists have known this for years, possible for several decades, it is not new to them. In this article I am going to describe with an example how I use words differently from the people around me.
Robert Hare, in his book ‘Without Conscience‘, writes about the shallow emotions of psychopaths. One of the examples he gives to convey this goes something like this: “They (the psychopaths) will typically say ‘This is fascinating'”, using the word ‘fascinating‘. And for me it is true, I do use that word – a lot. But…
– That line stuck with me. I think it’s a little strange because to me it has always seemed that most normal people, when they say “This is so interesting” or “How interesting, don’t you think?’, display shallow emotions. It’s like a display of lazy curiosity. I guess I find it shallow because mostly, when people say something like “isn’t it interesting?”, I see absolutely nothing interesting in the subject they’re talking about at all, and very often I know they’re not really interested either – at least not enough so to actually investigate further. I.O.W., it’s just words to show you’re a social and friendly person.
I don’t hear the word ‘fascinating’ be used in that manner – except for a few exceptions where it was used as a group relative semi-slang that these people simply used instead of the word ‘interesting’ to show they had linguistic finesse and weren’t plain (How ‘interesting’! *yawn*).
Isn’t the word ‘fascinating’ a reflection of stronger emotions than the word ‘interesting’? I believe the link above shows that I’m right when I say it is.
I see it this way: When something is interesting, it is simply logically interesting, there’s nothing emotional about it, you’re merely making a neutral observation (ref. also the link ‘interesting’ above). But when I use the word ‘fascinating’ about something, it means there’s an emotional element involved, I want to investigate further because it connects with a personal interest that I have in the subject.
Maybe Doc. Bob Hare simply meant to say that we psychopaths use the word ‘fascinating’ without really understanding or knowing about the emotional connotations that this word entails, that we use it to fake emotional interest and that we do it habitually (since Hare notices that we use it a lot). After learning that I fit the criteria for having the psychopathy diagnosis, I very often question myself about how accurately my emotional experience fits the meaning of the words that I use to express myself when I communicate with others. And while I have found many examples where I obviously don’t have the actual feelings behind the words I use, I’ve also found a lot of cases where I’m just not entirely sure.
But this will not come as a surprise to Doc. Robert D. Hare, he was the first to discuss the many examples where people – probably mostly psychopaths – have some degree and type of feeling about something. But it is a very unclear and murky kind of feeling that even the person themselves aren’t really sure about, that we don’t know what to call, and definitely don’t know how to describe or explain.
Conclusion: While there clearly are psychopaths who deliberately fake an interest where they have none by saying “How fascinating!”, this doesn’t fit in my case. I don’t use the word ‘fascinating’ if I’m really not interested, I’ll be more likely to use the word that those i am communicating with would be using, and I generally dislike rigid linguistics, I mush prefer to allow language to be a fluid ever changing tool, just like life itself which never stays the same.