Evaluating the relation between psychopathy and affective empathy: Two preliminary studies

David A. Lishner, Michael J. Vitacco, Phan Y. Hong, Jennifer Mosley, Kathryn Miska, Eric L. Stocks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

It is widely believed that impairment in an ability to experience affective empathy for others is a central feature of psychopathy. The authors tested this assumption by covertly manipulating and measuring state experiences of emotional contagion and empathic concern in college undergraduates and male forensic inpatients. Surprisingly, they found little evidence of a negative association between psychopathy and affective empathy in either sample. In those instances in which associations were found, they tended to indicate that higher psychopathy was associated with increased affective empathy. Follow-up analyses also revealed that psychopathy was positively associated with pervasive experiences of sadness, anger, and fear, and negatively associated with pervasive experiences of happiness among nonforensic individuals. This research raises questions about existing conceptualizations of interpersonal affect in psychopathy and offers suggestions for advancing future understanding of the role-played by emotional processes in psychopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1161-1181
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Volume56
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012

Keywords

  • Psychopathy
  • emotion
  • emotional contagion
  • empathic concern
  • empathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology

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