Psychopathy is a serious personality disorder characterized by dysfunctional affective and behavioral symptoms. In incarcerated populations, elevated psychopathic traits have been linked to increased rates of violent recidivism. Cognitive processes related to error processing have been shown to differentiate individuals with high and low psychopathic traits and may contribute to poor decision making that increases the risk of recidivism. Error processing abnormalities related to psychopathy may be attributable to error-monitoring (error detection) or posterror processing (error evaluation). A recent 'bottleneck' theory predicts deficiencies in posterror processing in individuals with high psychopathic traits. In the current study, incarcerated males (n = 93) performed a Go/NoGo response inhibition task while event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. Classic time-domain windowed component and principal component analyses were used to measure error-monitoring (as measured with the error-related negativity [ERN/Ne]) and posterror processing (as measured with the error positivity [Pe]). Psychopathic traits were assessed using Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). PCL-R Total score, Factor 1 (interpersonal-affective traits), and Facet 3 (lifestyle traits) scores were positively related to posterror processes (i.e., increased Pe amplitude) but unrelated to error-monitoring processes (i.e., ERN/Ne). These results support the attentional bottleneck theory and further describe deficiencies related to elevated psychopathic traits that could be beneficial for new treatment strategies for psychopathy.
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