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Personal Disord. 2012 Oct;3(4):370-8. doi: 10.1037/a0025593. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

Psychopathy-related differences in selective attention are captured by an early event-related potential.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


According to the response modulation model, the poorly regulated behavior of psychopathic individuals reflects a problem reallocating attention to process peripheral information while engaged in goal-directed behavior (Patterson & Newman, 1993). We evaluated this tenet using male prisoners and an early event-related potential component (P140) to index attentional processing. In all task conditions, participants viewed and categorized letter stimuli that could also be used to predict electric shocks. Instructions focused attention either on the threat-relevant dimension of the letters or an alternative, threat-irrelevant dimension. Offenders with high scores on Hare's (2003) Psychopathy Checklist-Revised displayed a larger P140 under alternative versus threat conditions. Beyond demonstrating psychopathy-related differences in early attention, these findings suggest that psychopathic individuals find it easier to ignore threat-related distractors when they are peripheral versus central to their goal-directed behavior.

(PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).

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