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Title: Assessment of emotional processes and psychopathy among offenders using both behavioural and physiological measures
Author: O'Farrell, Katherine
ISNI:       0000 0004 5989 343X
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2016
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Psychopathy is a personality disorder, the boundaries and content of which lack clarity and consensus. Researchers and clinicians tend to agree on one key aspect: affective hypo-responsivity. Recent evidence suggests that this disposition may be specific to certain features of psychopathy, and that affective deficits may be specific to aversive stimuli. Recognising that existing tests of emotion processing in relation to psychopathy have tended to rely on facial affect recognition, the present work delineated emotion processing into several components which were assessed in relation to the psychopathy dimensions broadly labelled primary and secondary psychopathic traits. Use of the same pictorial stimulus set allowed for an examination of processing of affective cues in terms of categorisation of affect, physiological response assessed through pupillometry, and influence on behaviour. Emotion experience was assessed through self-report. This approach allowed an examination of whether deficient threat reactivity is consistently found across the different manifestations of emotion. Moreover, by assessing psychopathy in terms of primary and secondary psychopathic traits, the generalisation of threat deficits across the variants could also be examined. Recognising the existing debate regarding the content of psychopathy, the present work also utilised two alternative measures of the disorder, the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version, and the Triarchic Psychopathy Measure. Assessing components of emotion processing in relation to the psychopathy dimensions within a sample of 94 adult male offenders revealed the specificity of threat deficits in relation to PCL:SV Factor 1. Contrary to hypotheses, physiological reactivity to affect was intact for offenders high on primary psychopathic traits. For offenders high on secondary psychopathic traits, affective responses across the components were intact but an atypical pattern of autonomic activity was found. Assessment of multiple components of affect therefore allowed a more subtle pattern of psychopathic emotion processing to emerge and highlighted the multifaceted nature of psychopathy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology