Psychopathy Traits and the Processing of Emotion Words

Categories: CharacterPsychology

In this article, by Reidy, Zeichner, and Hunnicutt-Ferguson, and Lilienfeld (2008), researchers utilized the Lexical Decision Task (LDT) paradigm to measure the relationship between psychopathic traits and differential patterns of emotional processing by Researchers examined processing of words related to fear, anger, sadness and happiness. To determine the relation between psychopathy traits and emotional processing, researchers evaluated (1) independent and (2) interconnected node activation related to discrete affect through multiple regression analyses. First researchers compared discrete affects to neutral words and then they compared discrete affect words to more affect words.

It was hypothesized that overall psychopathy scores would demonstrate quicker response times for anger related words, slow response times for sad and fear related words, and no relation to happy words.

Researchers also expected that F1 traits (emotionless) would illustrate slower responses to fear and sadness, but not for anger or happy words. They further expected F2 traits (antisocial, impulsive) would illustrate faster responses to anger and fear, but show no relation to happy or sad words.

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Participants included 60 male undergraduate psychology students (50 caucasian, 4 African Americans, 3 Asian Americans, 2 Hispanic Americans and 1 “other”) with a mean age of 19.2 (SD=2.8) and a mean education level of 14.2 (SD=2.8). The results support existing research that suggests that psychopaths experience more anger than non-psychopaths, by demonstrating that F1 correlates less to sad affect, while F2 and overall psychopathy show more relation to experiences of anger. The results further imply that psychopathy traits are associated with poor processing of sad facial and vocal affect.

The current research study illustrates some strengths and some weaknesses.

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A strength could be that researchers elaborated on existing research and theory which helps provide evidence to strengthen their own argument and hypotheses. An additional strength was that participants completed demographic forms that assessed age, gender, education level, ethnicity, marital status, and family income to assess necessary information needed to determine their validity in the study. Researchers also had participants complete a series of seven regression analyses to accurately assess the domains of the psychopathic personality which might produce better accuracy in the overall experiment.

A weakness of this study could be that the sample of participants lacked diversity. While existing theory suggests that men have higher rates of psychopathy traits than women, I think including women in the study could have increased overall accuracy and produced more telling results because it could provide a more unbiased result. The sample of participants also lacked diversity considering racial background, there were vastly more caucasian participants than participants of color. Including a larger, more racially diverse sample could have demonstrated a more accurate and reliable representation of the relation between psychopathy and emotional processing

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Psychopathy Traits and the Processing of Emotion Words. (2021, Sep 21). Retrieved from

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