Putin's Voice Says a Lot About His Mental State

'We can conjecture that he was in a state of psychological instability,' say analysts
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2022 2:40 PM CDT
Vocal Analysis May Reveal Putin's Inner Feelings
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with young award-winning culture professionals via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 25, 2022.   (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – Vladimir Putin's mind is the subject of much speculation and analysis. As one New York Daily News columnist notes, "the words unhinged, delusional, unbalanced, sociopathic, and narcissistic appear regularly" in coverage of his words and deeds. His televised speech on Feb. 24, the opening day of the invasion, certainly raised many eyebrows. The Guardian characterized it as “bizarre” and “not rational.” However, according to another analysis of that same speech, Putin’s forceful language—specifically his voice—revealed optimism and confidence. Two weeks later, in a March 10 meeting with underlings about the mass flight of foreign companies, "his vocal stress levels were over 40% higher than usual," indicating a show of "defiance."

This is according to vocal analysis by Japan-based Risk Measurement Technologies, per Nikkei Asia. Analysts studied voice samples from televised speeches and meetings between Feb. 1 and March 18 (using a relatively innocuous 2020 UN speech as a baseline). Researchers explain that "changes in a person’s mental state can affect their vocal cords, altering speech and potentially offering insights into their mentality." They also took body language into account. While results do not answer whether Putin is clinically mentally ill, they do show that his "steely exterior" does not always reflect his internal stress levels.

During the Feb. 21 meeting with his Security Council (an "absurd and angry spectacle," per the Guardian), "Putin's voice indicated swings between high and low levels of stress in a short time, a sign of wavering feelings," Nikkei Asia reports. From this, says Risk Measurement CEO Kanji Okazaki, "We can conjecture that he was in a state of psychological instability." Putin was apparently feeling stable and reflective during his March 18 address to a packed stadium, although analysts did not get to hear his response when (or if) he learned that the live broadcast cut away during his closing remarks. The Kremlin was quick to blame it on a glitchy server, per Reuters. (Read more Vladimir Putin stories.)

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