The proposed research applies recent developments in the theory and measurement of emotion to issues concerning affective response deficits in psychopathy. The startle modulation paradigm is used to investigate differences in aversive and appetitive responding in psychopaths during processing of affective stimuli. In normal subjects, the reflex blink response to a sudden, intense probe (e.g., a brief loud noise) is augmented during exposure to aversive slides or images, and inhibited during exposure to pleasant stimuli. Recent research indicates that the aversive facilitation component of startle modulation is absent in criminal psychopaths: These individuals showed inhibited startle responses during both aversive and pleasant stimulus presentations relative to neutral. Further, this unusual pattern was associated with the classic personality features of psychopathy, but not with criminality or social deviance per se. A series of four coordinated experiments is proposed to achieve the following objectives: a) to confirm that the normal pattern of startle modulation (i.e., reflex augmentation during processing of aversive stimuli) is absent in criminal psychopaths, and to explore the mechanism of this deficit, b) to compare the emotional responses of psychopaths and nonpsychopaths during imagery, aversive anticipation, and visual presentation of affective stimuli, and c) to examine the success of social deviance and personality factors of psychopathy in predicting physiological, self-report, and behavioral responses across different contexts of emotion evocation. The promise of this research lies in the development of a direct, reflexive measure of affective responding and affective change in criminal offenders, and in a greater understanding of the relationship between criminality and psychopathy.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
First Independent Research Support & Transition (FIRST) Awards (R29)
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Criminal and Violent Behavior Research Review Committee (CVR)
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Florida State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
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Hicks, Brian M; Vaidyanathan, Uma; Patrick, Christopher J (2010) Validating female psychopathy subtypes: differences in personality, antisocial and violent behavior, substance abuse, trauma, and mental health. Personal Disord 1:38-57
Kennealy, Patrick J; Hicks, Brian M; Patrick, Christopher J (2007) Validity of factors of the Psychopathy Checklist--Revised in female prisoners: discriminant relations with antisocial behavior, substance abuse, and personality. Assessment 14:323-40
Patrick, Christopher J; Hicks, Brian M; Krueger, Robert F et al. (2005) Relations between psychopathy facets and externalizing in a criminal offender sample. J Pers Disord 19:339-56
Verona, Edelyn; Hicks, Brian M; Patrick, Christopher J (2005) Psychopathy and suicidality in female offenders: mediating influences of personality and abuse. J Consult Clin Psychol 73:1065-73
Benning, Stephen D; Patrick, Christopher J; Salekin, Randall T et al. (2005) Convergent and discriminant validity of psychopathy factors assessed via self-report: a comparison of three instruments. Assessment 12:270-89
Benning, Stephen D; Patrick, Christopher J; Iacono, William G (2005) Psychopathy, startle blink modulation, and electrodermal reactivity in twin men. Psychophysiology 42:753-62
Benning, Stephen D; Patrick, Christopher J; Blonigen, Daniel M et al. (2005) Estimating facets of psychopathy from normal personality traits: a step toward community epidemiological investigations. Assessment 12:3-18
Hall, Jason R; Benning, Stephen D; Patrick, Christopher J (2004) Criterion-related validity of the three-factor model of psychopathy: personality, behavior, and adaptive functioning. Assessment 11:4-16
Verona, Edelyn; Patrick, Christopher J; Curtin, John J et al. (2004) Psychopathy and physiological response to emotionally evocative sounds. J Abnorm Psychol 113:99-108
Benning, Stephen D; Patrick, Christopher J; Hicks, Brian M et al. (2003) Factor structure of the psychopathic personality inventory: validity and implications for clinical assessment. Psychol Assess 15:340-50

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