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Title: Emotional processing in psychopathic offenders
Author: Copestake, Sonja
ISNI:       0000 0004 2751 7616
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2011
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Psychopathy is a disorder that is characterised by significant emotional deficits. The aim of this thesis was therefore to continue to explore emotional processing in a sample of offenders who were assessed as having different levels of psychopathic traits using the PCL-R and a self-report measure the PPI-R. Central to Blair, Mitchell & Blair's (2005) neurocognitive theory of psychopathy is the idea that psychopathic individuals experience specific difficulty identifying fear and sadness in others. Kosson, Suchy, Mayer & Libby (2002) have made an interesting distinction between being able to recognise/label and demonstrate appropriate physiological responsiveness to emotional material. Kosson et al. (2002) concluded that psychopathic individuals do not appear to experience difficulty recognising and labelling fear but they may not experience appropriate physiological responses to such stimuli. One aim of this thesis was to test the theories of Blair et al. (2005) and Kosson et al. (2002). Two different measures of emotional intelligence were therefore administered during this study, an ability EI measure, the MSCEIT and a trait EI measure the TMMS. A facial recognition task (DEFT task) was administered to examine the idea that psychopathic individuals are impaired in their recognition of sad and fearful expressions. An emotional priming task (EPT) was also administered to measure participants' reactions to the emotional valence of slides. Overall, my results are mixed and appear to provide some support for both Blair et al.'s (2005) and Kosson et al.'s theories (2002). In support of Blair et al.'s (2005) theory I found that psychopathic individuals experience difficulty identifying sadness in others. In support of Kosson et al.'s theory (2002) I found no evidence at all that participants with high levels of psychopathy demonstrated poorer performance at detecting or labelling fear. I also found that participants with high scores on PPI-I of the PPI-R demonstrated superior performance at recognising and labelling anger. In the EPT, I also found that Factor 2 of the PCL-R was related to poor responsiveness to the emotional content of negative slides. One finding, which is of particular interest, is the significant negative correlation between MSCEIT and TMMS total scores. One possible explanation for these results is that they provide evidence that the TMMS and MSCEIT may be tapping different underlying constructs associated with EI. However, these results suggest that participants who rated themselves as having high levels of EI on the TMMS actually demonstrated poor performance on the MSCEIT. This result may reflect the fact that participants lacked insight into the difficulties they experienced in accurately identifying and managing emotions. These results also provide support for Patrick & Bernat (2009) and Patrick's (2010) ideas that the PPI and PCL-R are measuring different underlying constructs of psychopathy. I found that the underlying factors of the PCL-R were related but this was not the case for the PPI-R. I also found that Factor 1 of the PCL-R was related to the Coldheartedness scale of the PPI-R but not PPI-I. The PCL-R and PPI-R also demonstrated different relationships with the tasks used in this research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available