Validating a distinction between primary and secondary psychopathy with measures of Gray's BIS and BAS constructs

J Abnorm Psychol. 2005 May;114(2):319-23. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.114.2.319.


Investigators commonly distinguish between primary and secondary psychopathy (H. Cleckley, 1976; D.T. Lykken, 1995), though there is a lack of consensus regarding the best means to achieve this distinction. To address the validity of using R. D. Hare's (2003) Psychopathy Checklist and the G. Welsh (1956) Anxiety Scale for this purpose, the authors used 2 measures of J. A. Gray's (1987) behavioral inhibition system/behavioral activation system (BIS/BAS). Following D. T. Lykken (1995) and D. C. Fowles (1980), the authors hypothesized that primary psychopathy would be associated with a weak BIS and a normal BAS, whereas secondary psychopathy would be associated with a strong BAS and a normal BIS. Results for primary psychopathy were as predicted. Results for secondary psychopathy clearly supported the strong BAS prediction but provided mixed support for the normal BIS prediction.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / classification
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Arousal
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics
  • Punishment
  • Racial Groups
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Reward
  • Surveys and Questionnaires