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Title: Psychopathic traits and everyday social behaviour
Author: Vyas, K.
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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Psychopathy is a disorder characterised by emotional dysfunction, difficulties in interpersonal relationships, and antisocial behaviour (e.g. Hare, 1993; Blair, Mitchell & Blair, 2005). People with psychopathy are thought to be callous and selfish, but they may also be charming and likeable. They are therefore considered to be adept at manipulating and deceiving others, with significant negative consequences for them. This thesis aimed to examine how psychopathic personality traits translate into specific aspects of everyday social behaviour. Thus, a range of experimental, scenario-based tasks was developed in order to compare prosocial responding and moral judgment in people high and low in psychopathic traits. These tasks were designed to manipulate contextual factors, such as the costs of behaving prosocially, or the extent to which people deserved a particular outcome. With respect to prosocial behaviour, the findings revealed that the high psychopathic trait participants behaved less prosocially than the low trait participants when they stood to gain or lose. The experimental manipulations in these studies were found to elicit patterns of behaviour in both trait groups that were similar in direction, but not necessarily in magnitude. For instance, the high trait groups demonstrated some sensitivity to others'distress, but at a lower threshold to the low trait group. With respect to moral judgment, the high and low trait groups were found to make comparable choices in moral reasoning, such as making more utilitarian decisions in moral dilemmas involving physical harm than in those involving social harm. Despite these selective group differences, the high trait participants were consistently less emotional than the low trait participants in the experiments involving moral judgment, as well as in those involving prosocial behaviour. The findings of the experimental studies were considered in the context of the prominent cognitive and emotional models of psychopathy. One theoretical framework that was particularly pertinent in relation to the current findings draws a distinction between cognitive and emotional aspects of empathy, and posits that psychopathy is characterised by intact cognitive empathy and impaired emotional empathy. The clinical implications and possible contributions of these findings to psychopathy remediation were considered.
Supervisor: Channon, S. ; Crawford, S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available