Deficient fear conditioning and self-reported psychopathy: the role of fearless dominance

Psychophysiology. 2013 Feb;50(2):210-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2012.01493.x. Epub 2012 Dec 13.


The role of the two dimensions of psychopathy-dispositional fearlessness (theorized to reflect variations in reactivity of the brain's defensive system) and externalizing proneness (presumed to reflect variations in function of anterior regulatory systems)-in fear learning was examined in a sample of undergraduates assessed using the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R) who participated in a differential aversive conditioning task. Only scores on self-reported "fearless dominance," irrespective of scores on "impulsive antisociality," were related to diminished acquisition of physiological fear. Consistent with dual-process accounts of psychopathy proposing divergent etiological pathways for the interpersonal/affective and the social deviance features of the disorder, our results lend support to the existence of a deficit in reactivity of the brain's defensive system underlying the fearlessness dimension of psychopathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Arousal
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Extinction, Psychological / physiology
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Social Dominance*