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Title: Neural and behavioural correlates of empathy and morality and their associations with psychopathic traits
Author: Seara Cardoso, A. B.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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Psychopathy is a personality disorder that can be defined by profound disturbances in empathic response to others and repeated engagement in immoral behaviour. This thesis set out to investigate how individual differences in psychopathic traits in the general population are associated with variability in distinct components of empathy and morality. This thesis endeavoured to answer five outstanding research questions: 1) Given the complexity and multidimensionality of empathy and morality constructs, which components of these constructs are associated with psychopathic traits at the behavioural level? [Chapters 2-3] 2) Are behavioural correlates of empathy and morality in psychopathic traits specific to affective-interpersonal traits/lifestyle-antisocial traits, or common to both? [Cs. 2-3] 3) Are these correlates consistent across genders? [Cs. 2-3] 4) Are associations between psychopathic traits and empathic [C. 4] and 5) moral processing reflected at the neural level [C. 5]? This thesis’ findings suggest that: 1) individual differences in psychopathic traits are associated with lesser empathic response to emotional stimuli, lesser propensity to feel moral emotions and atypical moral decision-making; 2) empathic atypicalities are driven by the joint variance between affective-interpersonal and lifestyle-antisocial facets, but those related to affective aspects of moral cognition seem to be driven by variance in affective-interpersonal traits; 3) empathic and moral atypicalities seem to be similar in men and women; 4) atypical amygdala and anterior insula function may represent neural markers of disrupted empathic processing for individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits; and 5) atypical functioning of the vmPFC/mOFC during moral processing may contribute to the disordered lifestyle and antisocial behaviour exhibited by individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits. These findings contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the empathic and moral processing impairments that underlie psychopathic traits.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available