Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Psychopaths Show Deviant Responses to Aversive Stimuli

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Psychopaths Show Deviant Responses to Aversive Stimuli

Article excerpt

SANTA FE, N.M. -- Psychopaths show decreased startle responses compared with nonpsychopaths when viewing aversive photographs, Edward M. Bernat, Ph.D., reported in a poster presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research.

The results support the notion that psychopaths are less physiologically reactive to aversive stimuli and lack empathy, concluded Dr. Bernat of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

The study compared 28 male psychopaths incarcerated at a medium-security prison with 23 nonpsychopathic inmates. Investigators showed each inmate 66 photographs taken from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS), a set of normative emotional stimuli for experimental investigations of emotion and attention.

Pleasant stimuli included erotic and action images such as nudes, surfing, or racing. Unpleasant stimuli included threat and victim images, such as aimed weapons, attack, and injury. Neutral stimuli included household objects and expressionless faces.

Each photo was displayed for 6 seconds, and during the display participants were startled by a loud sound--a 50-millisecond, 105-dB white noise probe--3-5 seconds after the beginning of the display. …

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