Psychological Profiling and Event Forecasting Using Computational Language Analysis

By pairing the analysis of what a person says with how they say it, we can often paint a remarkably detailed picture of a person’s mental and social universe. Such analyses can be performed extremely quickly and objectively using computational tools, and many psychological phenomena can be reliably estimated using relatively simple statistical models.

Rather than simply taking a threat of violence at face value, we can computationally evaluate the speaker’s language for deeper clues. Are they at-risk for a future depressive or schizophrenic episode? Are they obsessive-compulsive, or perhaps prone to conspiratorial thinking? Statistical estimation of these types of psychological vulnerabilities can help to highlight critical intervention strategies.

Language-based psychological profiles can also be applied at the group level, revealing fundamental differences in how group members think and engage with the world. Recent research found that Islamic State, as a group, shows greater authoritarianism and religious fervour in their psychological profile (revealed by markers such as low rates of present-focused and tentative language, plus high rates of religious language) relative to al-Qaeda. Moreover, study participants who scored high on authoritarianism and religiosity reported more favourable attitudes towards the language of Islamic State compared to the language of al-Qaeda. Understanding such group differences can provide insights into how a group functions, as well as what types of people might find these groups appealing.

Read full article written by Dr Ryan L. Boyd and Paul Kapoor.

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