Can a person’s Twitter posts reveal they are psychopathic?

By: June 7, 2014

Swearing too much on Twitter or over using words like ‘kill’, ‘die’ or ‘bury’ may be an indication that the poster has psychopathic tendencies.

A study by a computer science professor and doctoral student at Florida Atlantic University, in conjunction with the London-based Online Privacy Foundation suggests that using threatening and macabre language as well as swearing a lot on Twitter means the poster could be psychopathic.

This is one of the first major studies to look at how people’s use of language on social media sites relates to their mental health.

The long arm of the law
A data mining tool, developed by the researchers, could be used by law agencies to help identify potential threats, or by employers who want to screen a person’s social media activity before hiring them.

The study was actually conducted to show how social media can reveal certain personality traits individuals may have, and how this could potentially be used against them.

An existing formula that can reveal psychopathic tendencies by a person’s writing already exists. Randall Wald, a doctoral student in engineering and computer science and his professor, Taghi Khoshgoftaar, developed a new algorithm that then scanned the tweets of nearly 3,000 volunteers. 1.4% of users showed psychopathic tendencies based on their tweets. This percentage is similar to the US population as a whole.

“There are no privacy concerns as far as our study, because the people studied are all anonymous,” says Khoshgoftaar. “But this is an issue that’s going to exist as we put our lives online, there’s more risk people are going to see it.”