Background: Although one of the main characteristics of psychopaths is a deficit in emotion, it is unknown whether they show a fundamental impairment in appropriately recognizing their own body sensations during an emotion-inducing task.
Method: Skin conductance and heart rate were recorded in 138 males during a social stressor together with subjective reports of body sensations. Psychopathic traits were assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) 2nd edition (Hare, 2003).
Results: Nonpsychopathic controls who reported higher body sensations showed higher heart rate reactivity, but this verbal-autonomic consistency was not found in psychopathic individuals. This mind-body disconnection is particularly associated with the interpersonal-affective factor of psychopathy.
Conclusions: Findings are the first to document this body sensation-autonomic mismatch in psychopaths, and suggest that somatic aphasia - the inaccurate identification and recognition of one's own somatic states - may partly underlie the interpersonal-affective features of psychopathy.
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