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Psychophysiology. 1999 Nov;36(6):765-74.

Semantic and affective processing in psychopaths: an event-related potential (ERP) study.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Erratum in

  • Psychophysiology 2000 Mar;37(2):267.


We tested the hypothesis that psychopathy is associated with abnormal processing of semantic and affective verbal information. In Task 1, a lexical decision task, and in Task 2, a word identification task, participants responded faster to concrete than to abstract words. In Task 2, psychopaths made more errors identifying abstract words than concrete words. In Task 3, a word identification task, participants responded faster to positive than to negative words. In all three tasks, nonpsychopaths showed the expected event-related potential (ERP) differentiation between word stimuli, whereas psychopaths did not. In each task, the ERPs of the psychopaths included a large centrofrontal negative-going wave (N350); this wave was absent or very small in the nonpsychopaths. The interpretation and significance of these differences are discussed.

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