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J Abnorm Psychol. 2009 Feb;118(1):229-34. doi: 10.1037/a0014866.

Emotion processing in the criminal psychopath: the role of attention in emotion-facilitated memory.

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Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The response modulation hypothesis specifies that low-anxious psychopathic individuals have difficulty processing information outside their primary attentional focus. To evaluate the applicability of this model to affective processing, the authors had 239 offenders, classified with the Psychopathy Checklist--Revised (R. D. Hare, 2003) and the Welsh Anxiety Scale (G. Welsh, 1956), perform 1 of 3 emotion memory tasks that examined the effects of emotion on memory for primary and contextual information. Regardless of anxiety level, psychopathic and control offenders demonstrated a significant and comparable memory bias for emotional over neutral words in the primary conditions. However, psychopathic individuals showed significantly less memory bias than did controls in the contextual conditions. Results indicate that the impact of emotion on memory is moderated by attentional factors.

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