A Handy Trick to Catch a Psychopath

According to Brian K. Rundle, Psychopathy is characterized by a general antisocial lifestyle with behaviors including being selfish, manipulative, impulsive, fearless, callous, possibly domineering, and particularly lacking in empathy.

In a new study, published online in the Individual and Personality Differences journal, researchers exposed 135 students who completed the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R) to a yawning paradigm. The PPI-R is a questionnaire that assesses levels of psychopathic traits that one possesses. After this assessment, the students watched three videos in random order – a video of a person laughing, a person with a neutral face and a person who was yawning. The researchers monitored every reactive muscle activity in the participants’ faces.

Those who scored higher on the psychopathy-related trait of “coldheartedness” were less vulnerable to catch the contagious yawning catalyst. Coldheartedness describes emotional detachment with a general disagreeable disposition. People who rate highly on the spectrum of psychopathic traits tend to be uncaring, selfish and insincere. Also, psychopaths are more likely to be men than women.

Empathy is strongly related to reactionary yawning in humans. If you’ve been wondering whether or not your new lover, friend or boss may be a cold-hearted psychopath, then fake a good yawn and see if they yawn too. Don’t expect much empathy from those who don’t yawn back at you.