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J Abnorm Psychol. 2014 Feb;123(1):205-213. doi: 10.1037/a0035072. Epub 2013 Nov 18.

Examining the relations among pain tolerance, psychopathic traits, and violent and nonviolent antisocial behavior.

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Department of Psychology, University of Georgia.


Psychopathic traits are typically associated with an array of externalizing behaviors including violent and nonviolent crime and recidivism, substance use, aggression, and sexual coercion. In the current study, we test the hypothesis that psychopathic traits are related to an increased tolerance for physical pain, which may partially account for the relations between psychopathy and antisocial behavior (ASB). Using community participants oversampled for psychopathic traits (N = 104), we found that psychopathic traits, measured using self- and informant reports, manifested small correlations with some measures of physical pain tolerance (tolerance of pressure and electric shock) but not others (tolerance of cold temperature). In addition, pain tolerance, particularly tolerance of pressure, manifested small correlations with a history of antisocial and aggressive behavior. However, there was little evidence that pain tolerance serves as a mediator of the relations between psychopathy and violent or nonviolent ASB. Conversely, there was evidence that the relations between pain tolerance and ASB were mediated by the presence of certain psychopathic traits. The implications of these findings are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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