Deficient response modulation and emotion processing in low-anxious Caucasian psychopathic offenders: results from a lexical decision task

Emotion. 2002 Jun;2(2):91-104. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.2.2.91.


The clinical and research literatures on psychopathy have identified an emotion paradox: Psychopaths display normal appraisal but impaired use of emotion cues. Using R. D. Hare's (1991) Psychopathy Checklist-Revised and the G. S. Welsh Anxiety Scale (1956), the authors identified low-anxious psychopaths and controls and examined predictions concerning their performance on a lexical-decision task. Results supported all the predictions: (a) low-anxious psychopaths appraised emotion cues as well as controls; (b) their lexical decisions were relatively unaffected by emotion cues; (c) their lexical decisions were relatively unaffected by affectively neutral word-frequency cues; and (d) their performance deficits were specific to conditions involving right-handed responses. The authors propose that deficient response modulation may underlie both the emotional and cognitive deficits associated with low-anxious psychopaths.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Awareness*
  • Concept Formation
  • Cues
  • Emotions* / classification
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Paired-Associate Learning*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time
  • Reading*
  • Semantics*
  • Social Perception