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J Abnorm Psychol. 2009 Aug;118(3):554-63. doi: 10.1037/a0016480.

Attention moderates the processing of inhibitory information in primary psychopathy.

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


Primary psychopathic individuals are less apt to reevaluate or change their behavior in response to stimuli outside of their current focus of attention. According to the response modulation hypothesis, this tendency reflects a lack of responsivity to important peripheral information and undermines adaptive self-regulation. To evaluate this hypothesis, the authors administered a response competition (flanker-type) task and manipulated focus of visual attention. They predicted that psychopathic individuals would display significantly less interference to response incongruent information than nonpsychopathic participants when attention was cued to the target location but display normal interference when there was no prepotent focus of attention. The results confirmed this hypothesis and are consistent with the contention that attention moderates psychopathic individuals' responsivity to inhibitory cues. Implications of this attentional anomaly for psychopathic traits and behavior are discussed.

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