Psychopaths are, by their nature, devious and cunning, inveigling their way into our lives, often leaving us worse off. Quite often we find out about their psychopathic nature after they’ve left a trail of destruction.

But there might be a way of detecting them through their body language. One way psychopaths betray their true nature is the psychopathic stare.

Studies have shown that when a psychopath communicates, they tend to keep their head still. They also maintain eye contact for longer than usual.

These are just two of the non-verbal giveaways from a psychopath.

Along with the psychopathic stare, here are 5 more non-verbal cues that betray a psychopath:

Psychopathic stare and 5 other non-verbal cues

1. Psychopathic stare

Why do psychopaths keep their heads still with a penetrating gaze? You might not realize, but we move our heads to convey different aspects of communication. A nod for agreement or a shake for dissent. Cocking the head to one side acts as a question.

When we couple head movements with facial expressions, we express even more. From conveying sympathy to indicating whose turn it is to speak next.

In other words, our heads give away a lot of personal information. This is exactly what the psychopath doesn’t want. A psychopath’s greatest tool is their devious nature and ability to manipulate. Keeping their head still is one way of hiding what they are thinking.

As for the penetrating gaze, studies have shown that psychopaths tend to hold a person’s gaze for longer than average. Throw in the fact that their pupils do not dilate when they are afraid, and you have one scary-looking dude.

2. Space invaders

One character trait of the psychopath is cold-heartedness or a callous nature. Of course, your average psychopath will try and hide this aspect of their personality from you. However, research suggests that there is a link between callousness and social distance.

One study revealed that highly callous individuals preferred shorter distances between themselves and other people. Typically, this was an arm’s length at most.

There are two theories for why this occurs. One is that standing closer to someone allows a highly callous person to engage in aggressive behavior.

The second is that psychopaths are much less fearful than the general population, and therefore don’t mind standing closer to a stranger.

3. Increased hand gestures

There are several types of hand gestures, including deictic (pointing), iconic (depicting a concrete object), metaphoric (visualizing an abstract concept), and beat (emphasizing a part of the sentence).

Research suggests that psychopaths use more beat hand gestures than non-psychopaths. Beat gestures are up-and-down or back-and-forth hand gestures that emphasize certain parts of speech. They follow the beat of a sentence and are used to draw our attention to certain words.

Psychopaths use beat hand gestures to manipulate us. They can emphasize the particular part of a sentence they want us to hear, or steer us away from something they’d rather we didn’t hear.

Psychopaths also tend to self-manipulate more, for example, they’ll scratch their heads or fiddle with jewelry. This is another attempt to distract a person’s attention from inconsistencies in their conversation.

4. Micro-expressions

There are some occasions where psychopaths cannot control their body language. Their body language leaks out in micro-expressions which, although fleeting, lasting for milliseconds, can be revealing.

One such micro-expression is duping delight. This is a flash of a smile across the lips of a person who has gotten away with telling a lie. They cannot help themselves. The feeling of getting one over another person is so great that it escapes the controlling nature of the psychopath.

“Duping Delight is the pleasure we get over having someone else in our control and being able to manipulate them” – Dr. Paul Ekman, psychologist

You often see duping delight in police interviews of serial killers. You have to slow down the taped interview to catch the smirk, but it is there.

Other micro expressions are anger, surprise, and shock. Again, you have to be fast to pick up on these micro-expressions as they occur within a fraction of a second.

When someone is angry, their eyebrows will furrow downwards, and their lips will curl up in a snarl. Shock and surprise are expressed through widened eyes and raised eyebrows.

Although you might not always see these micro-expressions consciously, pay attention to your gut feelings about a person. Their expressions will filtrate down into your subconscious level and give you an uneasy feeling about the person.

5. Lack of emotion during speech

I’ve watched many documentaries on serial killers, and one thing I’ve noticed is the complete lack of emotion expressed when describing their murders. I’ve heard detectives talk about interviews with accused subjects that finally confess to their actions. They describe horrific events as if they are shopping in a supermarket.

Many murderous psychopaths will include mundane details, such as what they had to eat or drink, or talking about vicious killings in the same sentence.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with a psychopath after he had committed a particularly vicious crime:

“We got, uh, we got high, and had a few beers. I like whiskey, so I bought some whiskey, we had some of that, and then we, uh, went for a swim, and then we made love in my car, then we left to go get some more, some more booze and some more drugs.”

6. Dominance in social settings

A psychopath wants to get the upper hand in any social setting they are in. To achieve this, they use dominant body language.

As well as a psychopathic stare, psychopaths will lean forward and dominate your space while they’re talking to you. Studies show that this is especially true of young offenders with psychopathic traits. These young psychopaths will also smile less and blink less.

However, the same studies show that even psychopaths get stressed when they are trying to manipulate you. Their blink rate increases, and you’ll notice more hesitations in their speech, e.g. they’ll say um and ahh more. This gives them time to think of an appropriate response.

Final Thoughts

We all want to protect ourselves and stay away from psychopaths, so being aware of a psychopathic stare and other non-verbal giveaways is important.

You never know, one day it might save your life!


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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. KellieEsq

    Informative and fascinating.

  2. kellly

    Psychopaths are very manipulative people. Unless they are very careful they can’t be as effective as they want to be. When first meeting others, they can be quite charming in order to get their mark to drop their guard so that the manipulation can begin.
    Unless a person is extremely wary and watches every new person closely when they encounter someone new for the types of behavior discussed in this article, it’s unlikely these will be noticeable by a lay person. That’s what psychopaths rely on, and while they may have these “tells” as soon as they meet someone, unless you have yourself on constant guard to try and detect these, it’s good to know what some of the other behaviors are in case you can’t catch how long they hold a stare, for example. Other more noticeable indications of psychopathic behavior include cruelty to animals, lack of emotional connections, early fire-setting and destruction of property, manipulativeness, quick to extreme anger, no understanding or regard for truthfulness, lack of empathy,impulsive antisocial behavior, extreme egocentricity, etc.

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