Stroop tasks reveal abnormal selective attention among psychopathic offenders

Neuropsychology. 2004 Jan;18(1):50-59. doi: 10.1037/0894-4105.18.1.50.


Selective attention among offenders with psychopathy was investigated using 3 Stroop paradigms: a standard color-word (CW) Stroop, a picture-word (PW) Stroop, and a color-word Stroop in which the word and color were spatially separated (separated CW). Consistent with "overselective" attention, offenders with psychopathy displayed reduced Stroop interference on the separated CW and PW tasks relative to offenders who were not psychopathic. However, offenders with psychopathy displayed normal Stroop interference on the standard CW Stroop. Further, the reduced interference of offenders with psychopathy on the separated CW Stroop was accompanied by normal facilitation. These findings suggest a circumscribed attentional deficit in psychopathy that hinders the use of unattended information that is (a) not integrated with deliberately attended information and (b) not compatible with current goal-directed behavior.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Attention*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Perceptual Masking
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Test Anxiety Scale