Exploring the link between character, personality disorder, and neuropsychological function

Eur Psychiatry. 2003 Nov;18(7):334-44. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2003.03.008.


Personality deviations and deficits in cognitive executive function are common among forensic populations. The present study on incarcerated offenders explored whether there are links between the two domains. Personality was assessed using the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI). Neuropsychological performance, including visual working memory, attentional set-shifting and planning, were tested with the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB). Subjects with personality disorders scored high on harm avoidance, and low on self-directedness and cooperativeness. Personality disordered offenders did not differ from the comparison groups (offenders without personality disorder, and non-criminal controls) with regard to CANTAB measures of visual working memory (delayed matching to sample, spatial working memory) and planning (Stockings of Cambridge), but they made a larger number of errors on the attentional set-shifting task. Dimensional analysis of the personality and neuropsychological variables revealed significant associations between self-directedness and cooperativeness on the one hand, and attentional set-shifting on the other. Intellectually disabled, non-criminal individuals (marginal mental retardation) who performed poorly on attentional set-shifting also scored low on self-directedness and cooperativeness. The results indicate that poor development of certain personality traits may be associated with deficits in neuropsychological functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Character*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis
  • Personality Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Personality Disorders / psychology*
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temperament