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Neuropsychiatr. 2012;26(2):65-71. doi: 10.1007/s40211-012-0015-9. Epub 2012 Jul 27.

[Impaired resonance in offenders with psychopathic traits].

[Article in German]

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Forschungsbereich für Klinische und Soziale Psychiatrie, Psychiatrische Universitätsklinik Zürich, Militärstrasse 8, PF 1930, 8021, Zürich, Schweiz,



Resonance is the phenomenon of unconsciously mirroring the motor actions of another person. Beside autism and schizophrenia psychopathic personality traits are associated with empathy dysfunction.


We explore empathic resonance in terms of contagion by laughing and yawning in a group of offenders with psychopathic traits. Offenders with psychopathic traits (n = 12) and matched controls (n = 10) were video-taped while watching short video sequences of yawning, laughing or neutral faces. They were rated regarding contagion. Further, we assessed a self-report on psychopathy and on empathic tendencies.


Compared to the control group, the offenders showed significantly less contagion and less self-reported empathic tendencies. Individuals who rated themselves as more empathic showed more contagion.


The observed reduced resonance in terms of contagion may illuminate the cold-heartedness, with which some psychopathic offenders treat their victims: When embodied experiencing of other's physical and emotional situation is missing, a natural inhibition of violence may be overcome. The small sample size limits the generalisability of these findings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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