Anomalous perceptual asymmetries for negative emotional stimuli in the psychopath

J Abnorm Psychol. 1996 Nov;105(4):648-52. doi: 10.1037//0021-843x.105.4.648.


This study tested the hypothesis that when processing negative emotional material, psychopaths, compared with nonpsychopaths, would rely less on connotative-emotional processes based in the right hemisphere and more on denotative-linguistic processes based in the left hemisphere. Psychopathic and nonpsychopathic inmate groups, defined by their scores on the Psychopathy Checklist--Revised (R. D. Hare 1985), completed 2 analogous tachistoscopic tasks (words and faces). Accuracy and reaction times of inmates' responses in identifying which of 2 bilaterally presented stimuli (1 neutral and 1 emotional) was the emotional stimulus were measured. Significant lateral processing differences between the 2 groups emerged on the word task but not on the face task, providing partial support for the experimental hypothesis. Psychopaths also showed lower generalized emotional responsivity than nonpsychopaths on the Affect Intensity Measure.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Arousal
  • Attention*
  • Dominance, Cerebral*
  • Emotions*
  • Facial Expression
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Reading
  • Semantics