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J Abnorm Psychol. 2013 May;122(2):458-68. doi: 10.1037/a0030958. Epub 2013 Jan 28.

Emotion-modulated startle in psychopathy: clarifying familiar effects.

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1
Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA. baskinsommer@wisc.edu

Abstract

The behavior of psychopathic individuals is thought to reflect a core fear deficit that prevents these individuals from appreciating the consequences of their choices and actions. However, growing evidence suggests that psychopathy-related emotion deficits are moderated by attention and, thus, may not reflect a reduced capacity for emotion responding. The present study attempts to reconcile this attention perspective with one of the most cited findings in psychopathy, which reports emotion-modulated startle deficits among psychopathic individuals during picture viewing. In this study, we evaluate the potential effects of a putative attention bottleneck on the emotion processing of psychopathic offenders during picture viewing by manipulating picture familiarity and examining emotion-modulated startle and late positive potential (LPP). As predicted, psychopathic individuals displayed the classic deficit in emotion-modulated startle during novel pictures, but they showed no deficit in emotion-modulated startle during familiar pictures. Conversely, results for LPP responses revealed psychopathy-related differences during familiar pictures and no psychopathy-related differences during novel pictures. Important differences related to the two factors of psychopathy are also discussed. Overall, the results of this study not only highlight the differential importance of perceptual load on emotion processing in psychopathy, but also raise interesting questions about the varied effects of attention on psychopathy-related emotion deficits.

PMID:
23356218
PMCID:
PMC3640755
DOI:
10.1037/a0030958
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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