Emotion processing in the criminal psychopath: The role of attention in emotion facilitated memory

  • Glass S
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The response modulation hypothesis specifies that low-anxious psychopathic individuals have difficulty processing information outside of their primary attentional focus. To evaluate the applicability of this model to affective processing, 236 offenders, classified using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (Hare, 2003) and the Welsh Anxiety Scale (Welsh, 1956), performed one of three emotion memory tasks that examined the effects of emotion on memory for primary and contextual information. In Experiment 1, both low-anxious psychopathic and control individuals exhibited an emotion bias in the primary task by remembering more emotional than neutral words. But in the contextual task, as predicted, the groups differed in that this bias persisted only in the low-anxious control group who remembered the locations of more emotional than neutral words. Experiment 2 was designed to replicate Experiment 1 with a different contextual stimulus. Consistent with predictions and the findings from Experiment 1, the groups only differed in the contextual task; only the low-anxious control group demonstrated better memory for the color of boxes surrounding emotion words than those surrounding neutral words. In Experiment 3, color was integrated with the word in an attempt to make it part of the primary focus and thus more likely to be processed by psychopathic individuals. Consistent with the two previous studies, but contrary to predictions, both groups demonstrated a similar emotion bias in the primary task but only the control group remembered more colors of emotion words than of neutral words. Experiment 4 examined the consistency and strength of the context effect across the three experiments and found a moderate effect size of 0.60. Further, combining the data into one well-powered study revealed that both across anxiety and within low-anxious participants, psychopathic and non-psychopathic groups performed similarly in the primary condition but not in the contextual condition. Results indicate that the effects of emotion on information processing in psychopathic individuals are moderated by attentional factors. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved).

Author-supplied keywords

  • *Attention
  • *Criminal Behavior
  • *Emotions
  • *Memory
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Criminals
  • Human
  • Human Experimental Psychology [2300]
  • attentio
  • criminal psychopathy
  • emotion processing

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  • Samantha J Glass

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