Social and affective functioning in incarcerated male adults with psychopathic traits

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University of Alabama Libraries

Psychopathy is a disorder marked by personality traits such as callousness, manipulativeness, and impulsivity – traits that often co-occur with antisocial behavior. Researchers and clinicians have posited that these traits may be associated with altered or impaired affective functioning, but research in this area has been unsystematic and results have been mixed. The three studies included aimed to better characterize affective deficits in three domains: facial expression recognition, memory, and social-emotional cognition. Data were collected from 87 inmates at a county jail to gather a sample of participants with varying levels of psychopathic traits. Psychopathy was measured using the PCL:SV, a clinician-rated interview system, and participants completed tasks measuring accuracy of facial expression recognition, memory for emotional and non-emotional stimuli, and theory of mind. Psychopathic traits were associated with deficits in recognizing disgust, sadness, anger, and confusion, but the deficits differed between psychopathy factor and between facial expression recognition tasks. Psychopathy was related to recognition, but not recall, of emotional stimuli, and it was not related to memory for auditory narrative memory or visuospatial memory. Finally, psychopathy total and Factor 1 scores were negatively related to affective theory of mind, but effect sizes were small. Overall, these three studies provide additional evidence for emotional impairment associated with psychopathy in some, but not all, domains.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Psychology, Clinical psychology