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Behav Sci Law. 2011 Sep-Oct;29(5):649-66. doi: 10.1002/bsl.998. Epub 2011 Aug 3.

High psychopathic trait females exhibit reduced startle potentiation and increased p3 amplitude.

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  • 1Baylor University, Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Waco, TX, USA.


While there has been steady progress in identifying psychophysiological traits associated with psychopathy, most of the existing research has been carried out using incarcerated male participants, and data that include females are particularly rare. This study examined both affective startle blink modulation and P3 amplitude in a sample of female undergraduates grouped by scores on the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R). Those scoring high for psychopathic traits lacked startle blink potentiation and demonstrated larger P3 amplitudes during auditory and visual oddball tasks. These data support the generalizability of deficient startle potentiation to non-incarcerated females with psychopathic traits, and add to a growing body of literature suggesting that psychopathic traits are associated with distinctive information-processing characteristics as indexed by P3 amplitude.

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