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J Abnorm Psychol. 2001 Aug;110(3):423-32.

Autonomic stress reactivity and executive functions in successful and unsuccessful criminal psychopaths from the community.

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Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles 90089-1061, USA.


A significant gap in the psychopathy literature is the lack of studies comparing "successful," nonconvicted psychopaths with "unsuccessful," convicted psychopaths. This study tested the hypothesis that successful psychopaths show increased autonomic stress reactivity and better neuropsychological function compared with unsuccessful psychopaths. A total of 26 controls, 16 unsuccessful psychopaths, and 13 successful psychopaths were assessed on psychophysiological measures recorded during an emotional manipulation, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), Wechsler Memory Scale--Revised subtests, and childhood stressors. Compared with controls, unsuccessful psychopaths showed reduced cardiovascular stress reactivity. In contrast, successful psychopaths showed heightened reactivity, better WCST performance, and more parental absence than unsuccessful psychopaths and controls. The implications of these findings and the generalizability of existing psychopathy research are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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