School of Education
psychopathy, neuropsychology, adolescent, callous, unemotional
The most consistent neuropsychology literature in psychopathy is dysfunction in selective attention (Blair et al., 2006; Hiatt et al., 2004; Kosson, 1998; LaPierre et al., 1995; Pham et al., 2003; Roussy & Toupin, 2002; Sellbom & Verona 2007; Vitale et al., 2007). The following areas have been profiled in the literature, but have shown mixed results: sustained attention (Gorstein, 1982; Kosson, 1998; Pham et al., 2003), shifting attention (Gorstein, 1982; Kosson, 1998), verbal ability (Mayer et al., 2006; Raine et al., 1990), planning and cognitive shifting (Mahmut et al., 2008; Pham et al., 2003; Roussey & Toupin, 2000; Sreenivasan et al., 2008), and visual spatial skills (Pham et al., 2003; Raine et al., 2005). The response set modulation hypothesis (RM; Newman, Schmitt & Voss, 1997) and the integrated emotion system (IES; Blair, 2005) are the most empirically supported cognitive models of psychopathy. The purpose of this study was to examine the cognitive profile of adolescents with psychopathic characteristics, looking at executive functions and how they differ in individuals who score high on callous/unemotional traits (CU; Cleckley, 1941; Frick et al., 1994; Hare, 1991, 1993). Then apply these findings to the cognitive models. Literature has not examined the connection between executive functions and CU traits. Based on the shared neurological systems (Blair, 2005; Blair et al., 2006; Soderstrom et al., 2002), it was hypothesized that CU traits would affect performance on attention and executive processes measures. Sixty two adolescent males ages 14 to 19 from a preexisting database were included in the sample. The results showed that planning significantly accounted for unique variance in CU traits. Those who had higher CU traits had higher planning skills. There were no differences between high and low psychopathy groups on measures of attention and executive processes. These results support the IES model. The three and four factor models of psychopathy were supported in the follow up analyses.
While these findings add to the literature base, additional research is needed to clarify neuropsychological profile of psychopathy in connection to specific characteristics in order to develop successful interventions to improve the prognosis and outcome of psychopathy.
Greene, T. (2009). Neuropsychological Deficits in Adolescents with Psychopathic Characteristics: Callous and Unemotional Symptoms (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/601