Please don't be distracted by my referring to Hare's work with psychopaths. The character-disordered have one thing in common: they lie. A lot. Lying is pervasive throughout all their interactions with others. As I have highlighted before, Dr. Hare has established that all psychopaths have a pervasive narcissistic personality. So, even on their best day, a malignant narcissist has much more in common with the psychopath than with the rest of us. Also, I know that some of you who read this blog are dealing with someone who is closer to the psychopath than not.
I have observed before that the malignant narcissist prostitutes language to their own ends. They pervert the use of language in order to destroy true communication. The purpose of language is to communicate. Narcissists use language to do the opposite. Obscure, mislead, divert, confuse. This is perversion. By perversion I am using this definition: "To put to a wrong or improper use; misuse."
"Although psychopaths lie a lot, they are not the skilled liars we often make them out to be. As I discussed earlier, their speech is full of inconsistent or contradictory statements. Psychopaths may play mental Scrabble, but they sometimes do it badly because they fail to integrate the pieces into a coherent whole; their truth line is fragmented and patchy, at best..." Without Conscience, pg. 136
So why are we often fooled by the inconsistencies and illogic of their statements? Hare states,
"[Victims] might not notice the discrepancy, particularly if they are engrossed in the action." Ibid. pg. 137 Emphasis mine.
When we are stuck in the moment with the liar there is much which is going on. They are masters of distraction. Constantly scanning your face and body language for cues as to how they should be responding to you at any particular moment, they dance here and there and zig and zag in order to lead you to whatever conclusion works best for them.
What I found particularly intriguing in this chapter of the book was Hare's analysis of the hand gestures which accompany the words under the chapter subtitle "Watch Their Hands". After accounting for the fact that certain cultures use more meaningless hand gestures than others, he then describes how psychopaths use many more "beats" (small, rapid hand gestures which are "empty" of meaning) as they talk. We all use "beats" to help us connect our words to our thoughts. The harder it is to come up with a word to describe our thoughts the more we will employ these empty hand gestures. People who are not speaking in their native tongue will use many more "beats" as they search around for the right word.
"A high rate of beat gestures appears to reflect difficulty in converting thoughts and feelings into speech." pg. 135
"Recent evidence suggests that psychopaths use more beats than do normal people, particularly when they talk about things generally considered emotional..." pg. 136 [emphasis author's]
Hare follows up this statement with what can be inferred from this evidence. You can read the book yourself to see his second inference because you need the context of the chapter to understand it, but the first one is that "emotion is like a second language to the psychopath."
To quote Spock, "fascinating".
I have talked about my mother's ridiculously animated hand gestures before like here and here. It doesn't happen all the time, but it happens consistently when she is "playing" to an audience. I almost wish now that I was still in contact with her so I could study her hand gestures in light of Hare's information. He offers this excessive use of hand gestures as a sign of possible psychopathy. It can be a signal that the person you're talking to is having a difficult time finding the right "emotional" words to use. Groping around like someone whose second language is English, this person is not at home using words which communicate an emotional punch.
Put this one in your tool box. When you see something beating the air with their hands it may simply mean this person is having a hard time finding the words for whatever reason. But if you are conversing with someone who consistently and excessively uses "beats", at least consider the possibility that you are dealing with a narcissistic and/or psychopathic individual. It is a piece of evidence. It only has significance as it correlates with other supporting evidence. In isolation it may be meaningless.
"Expansive hand movements and exaggerated facial expressions" are part of the "dramatic display" which can blind us to the nonsensical, the odd, the illogic of the conversant. It can divert and mesmerize the smartest person. Makes me think again of the killdeer. If you've ever stepped near their eggs or young you've seen the impressive display. They are suddenly and loudly calling with their piercing vocals while running, limping and dragging a wing. Between the vocals and gestures you are diverted from the truth: that their vulnerable young are near by. Once the perceived predator has been lured a safe distance from their young by the deceptive act, the adult killdeer bursts into flight off away from the direction of its young.
In a similar way we can become entranced and distracted by an animated display and led away from the truth. The diversion artist has once again evaded real communication and hidden the truth from view.
"Society runs on trust, and we ordinarily pay more attention to what someone says than to the accompanying nonverbal behavior--hand gestures, facial movements, smiles, eye contact. However, when the speaker is attractive and gives a really impressive nonverbal performance, the effect can be reversed--we watch the show and pay little attention to what is said." Without Conscience, pg. 145