Approach and avoidance motivation in psychopathic criminal offenders during passive avoidance

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1997 Jun;72(6):1413-28. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.72.6.1413.


The authors evaluated competing theories that attribute psychopathic individuals' poor passive avoidance to a strong activating system, a weak inhibitory system, or poor modulation of behavioral activation when inhibitory cues appear. In Study 1, the continuous motor task involved a reward phase to elicit the activating system followed by a passive avoidance phase. Study 2 tested the generality of the theories by using an active avoidance phase to elicit the activating system. Heart rate and response speed results from Study 1 best supported the strong activating system and poor response modulation models in low-anxiety psychopathic offenders. Study 2 results did not clearly support any of the models. Further research is needed to determine if excessive activation by reward and poor response modulation are associated with passive avoidance deficits and other characteristics of low-anxiety psychopathic offenders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Arousal
  • Avoidance Learning*
  • Crime / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Personality Assessment
  • Prisoners / psychology