On Psychopaths and Semantic Aphasia


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According to Dr. Hervey Cleckley, M.D., who worked as a psychiatrist in a psychiatric facility in the late 1930s, even though psychopaths don't tend to show the obvious symptoms of mental illness, they suffer from a profound underlying disorder in which the language and emotional components of thought are not properly integrated, a condition he called semantic aphasia. They did not understand and cared little about the feelings of others, lacking both remorse and shame for the harm they did to others.


Cleckley's patients often made poor life judgements and didn't learn much from their personal experiences, causing them to repeat dysfunctional or unfruitful behaviours. They lacked insight concerning themselves and the impact of their behaviour on others which did not appear to concern them at all.


Cleckley also noticed that psychopaths used language somewhat differently from most people; their sentence structure, choice of words and tempo (or beat) were different. Psychopaths tend to have difficulty understanding the emotional content of words that add colour and interest to communication. They would often describe their most atrocious crimes with dispassion and disinterest, showing no emotion at all. Just hearing these matter-of-fact descriptions sent chills down the spines of many criminal investigators.

Could there be something different going on in the psychopath's brain that might explain these differences?


Stay tuned ;)

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