The purpose of this research is to clarify the psychological processes responsible for the breakdown of adaptive self-regulation in psychopaths. Specifically, the investigators examine whether psychopaths are characterized by an information processing deficit that interferes with the automatic accommodation of peripheral information (including affective cues) while they are engaged in goal-directed behavior. In contrast to theories which attribute psychopathy to """"""""low fear"""""""" or """"""""insensitivity"""""""" to punishment cues"""""""", our """"""""response modulation"""""""" hypothesis predicts (a) that psychopaths' insensitivity to punishment cues will be relatively specific to circumstances in which the cues are peripheral to ongoing, goal-directed behavior; and (b) that psychopaths will be less sensitive to motivationally neutral, as well as motivationally significant, peripheral stimuli while they are engaged in goal-directed behavior. Prior research has tested and found support for the first prediction but, until recently, there was no evidence regarding psychopaths' sensitivity to motivational-neutral peripheral cues. The investigators tested this unique prediction during the initial period of this grant and found that psychopaths are, indeed, relatively insensitive to contextual (i.e., peripheral) stimuli even when they are motivationally neutral. Such findings suggest that a cognitive, as opposed to a motivational, deficit may underlie psychopaths' insensitivity to various forms of contextual information and account for their self-regulatory deficits. The proposed research is designed to replicate and elucidate the psychopath's apparent insensitivity to contextual information. Toward this end, the investigators propose five experiments to (a) replicate and extend evidence that psychopaths are insensitive to motivationally- neutral, as well as affectively-significant, contextual cues; (b) clarify the circumstances under which psychopaths are unresponsive to contextual cues; (c) examine the correspondence between the psychopath's information processing and affective deficits; and (d) test a novel hypothesis regarding a potential neuropsychological mechanism for the psychopath's apparent insensitivity to contextual cues. This research will clarify the factors underlying the psychopath's poorly regulated behavior and is likely to have immediate implications for conceptualizing, assessing, and treating """"""""risk"""""""" for psychopathy.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZMH1-BRB-S (05))
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Breiling, James P
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University of Wisconsin Madison
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Miskovich, Tara A; Anderson, Nathaniel E; Harenski, Carla L et al. (2018) Abnormal cortical gyrification in criminal psychopathy. Neuroimage Clin 19:876-882
Larson, Christine L; Baskin-Sommers, Arielle R; Stout, Daniel M et al. (2013) The interplay of attention and emotion: top-down attention modulates amygdala activation in psychopathy. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 13:757-70
Zeier, Joshua D; Newman, Joseph P (2013) Feature-based attention and conflict monitoring in criminal offenders: interactive relations of psychopathy with anxiety and externalizing. J Abnorm Psychol 122:797-806
Zeier, Joshua D; Newman, Joseph P (2013) Both self-report and interview-based measures of psychopathy predict attention abnormalities in criminal offenders. Assessment 20:610-9
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Baskin-Sommers, Arielle R; Vitale, Jennifer E; Maccoon, Donal et al. (2012) Assessing emotion sensitivity in female offenders with borderline personality symptoms: results from a fear-potentiated startle paradigm. J Abnorm Psychol 121:477-83
Zeier, Joshua D; Baskin-Sommers, Arielle R; Hiatt Racer, Kristina D et al. (2012) Cognitive control deficits associated with antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy. Personal Disord 3:283-93
Baskin-Sommers, Arielle; Curtin, John J; Li, Wen et al. (2012) Psychopathy-related differences in selective attention are captured by an early event-related potential. Personal Disord 3:370-8
Baskin-Sommers, Arielle R; Curtin, John J; Newman, Joseph P (2011) Specifying the attentional selection that moderates the fearlessness of psychopathic offenders. Psychol Sci 22:226-34

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