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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2005 Mar;46(3):327-36.

Deafness to fear in boys with psychopathic tendencies.

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  • 1Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Heath, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-2670, USA.


The processing of the emotional signals of others is fundamental for normal socialization and interaction. Reduced responsiveness to the expressions of sadness and fear has been implicated in the development of psychopathy (Blair, 1995). The current study investigates the ability of boys with psychopathic tendencies to process auditory affect information. Boys with psychopathic tendencies and a comparison group, as defined by the Antisocial Process Screening Device (APSD: Frick & Hare, 2001), were presented with neutral words spoken with intonations conveying happiness, disgust, anger, sadness and fear and were asked to identify the emotion of the speaker based on prosody. The boys with psychopathic tendencies presented with a selective impairment for the recognition of fearful vocal affect. These results are interpreted with reference to amygdala dysfunction and components of the Integrated Emotion Systems model.

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