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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2012 Nov;36(10):2288-304. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.08.006. Epub 2012 Aug 27.

Not just fear and sadness: meta-analytic evidence of pervasive emotion recognition deficits for facial and vocal expressions in psychopathy.

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Department of Psychology (buiding 39), The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.


The present meta-analysis aimed to clarify whether deficits in emotion recognition in psychopathy are restricted to certain emotions and modalities or whether they are more pervasive. We also attempted to assess the influence of other important variables: age, and the affective factor of psychopathy. A systematic search of electronic databases and a subsequent manual search identified 26 studies that included 29 experiments (N = 1376) involving six emotion categories (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise) across three modalities (facial, vocal, postural). Meta-analyses found evidence of pervasive impairments across modalities (facial and vocal) with significant deficits evident for several emotions (i.e., not only fear and sadness) in both adults and children/adolescents. These results are consistent with recent theorizing that the amygdala, which is believed to be dysfunctional in psychopathy, has a broad role in emotion processing. We discuss limitations of the available data that restrict the ability of meta-analysis to consider the influence of age and separate the sub-factors of psychopathy, highlighting important directions for future research.

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