Facial Processing and Social Motivation In Psychopathy: An Event-Related Potential Study

Emily DuBose Sherman, Purdue University


Recent work has urged a shift in the perspective of psychopathy to focus on the interpersonal aspects of the disorder that are often overlooked in the broader literature. Conceptual and empirical overlap with an exemplar interpersonal disorder- autism spectrum disorder- lends support to viewing psychopathy as an interpersonal disorder; however, there are interpersonal dysfunctions associated with psychopathy that cannot be attributed wholly to overlap with autistic traits. The current study examined self-report measures, a lab task, and event-related potentials (ERPs) that are related to social, interpersonal functioning and motivation to help elucidate what aspects of psychopathy and ASD are overlapping or unique to support the perspective of psychopathy as an interpersonal disorder. Psychopathic traits were examined in relation to autistic traits as well as the Five Factor Model of personality and social discounting, a task that provides the ability to quantify how individuals value social relationships. In addition, the ‘face sensitive’ N170 and ‘emotion sensitive’ late positive potential (LPP) ERP components were examined in response to passive-viewing tasks focused on the processing of faces, as well as social and non-social, emotionally arousing stimuli. Results showed that there is an association between psychopathy and autistic traits, but that psychopathy is related to multiple indicators of interpersonal dysfunction across methods beyond what is attributed to the overlap with autistic traits, and as such should be viewed as an interpersonal disorder.




Lynam, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology|Personality psychology

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