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J Abnorm Psychol. 2009 May;118(2):388-98. doi: 10.1037/a0015372.

Vocal affect recognition and psychopathy: converging findings across traditional and cluster analytic approaches to assessing the construct.

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Department of Psychology, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Health Sciences, 3333 Green Bay Road, North Chicago, IL 60064, USA.


Deficits in emotion processing have been widely reported to be central to psychopathy. However, few prior studies have examined vocal affect recognition in psychopaths, and these studies suffer from significant methodological limitations. Moreover, prior studies have yielded conflicting findings regarding the specificity of psychopaths' affect recognition deficits. This study examined vocal affect recognition in 107 male inmates under conditions requiring isolated prosodic vs. semantic analysis of affective cues and compared subgroups of offenders identified via cluster analysis on vocal affect recognition. Psychopaths demonstrated deficits in vocal affect recognition under conditions requiring use of semantic cues and conditions requiring use of prosodic cues. Moreover, both primary and secondary psychopaths exhibited relatively similar emotional deficits in the semantic analysis condition compared to nonpsychopathic control participants. This study demonstrates that psychopaths' vocal affect recognition deficits are not due to methodological limitations of previous studies and provides preliminary evidence that primary and secondary psychopaths exhibit generally similar deficits in vocal affect recognition.

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