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Encephale. 2000 Jan-Feb;26(1):45-51.

Subjective and autonomic responses to emotion induction in psychopaths.

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Department of Psychology, University of Louvain at Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


It has been theorized that psychopaths have a fundamental deficit with respect to emotions (Cleckley, 1941). This study compares psychopaths with control subjects (Hare, 1991) in terms of their physiological and subjective responses to video clips depicting different emotions: joy, fear, anger, sadness, and disgust. Physiological measures assessed cardiovascular, respiratory, electrodermal, electromyographic responding, as well as skin temperature. Subjective measures assessed bodily sensations and subjective emotional appraisal. The principal physiological difference was a lower blood pressure among psychopaths before and during emotional stimulation. Thus, while psychopaths's autonomic base-line may be generally hyporeactive, they do not seem to have any emotion-specific physiological deficit. Globally, the results suggested no specific psychophysiological deficits among psychopaths in a context using daily emotions. Subjective measures also revealed that, compared to control subjects, psychopaths reported less intense bodily sensations during emotional stimulation. There was no difference between the two groups in terms of emotional appraisal.

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