Psychopathic individuals' lack of responsiveness to punishment cues and poor self-regulation have been attributed to fearlessness (D. T. Lykken, 1957, 1982, 1995). Alternatively, deficient response modulation (RM) may hinder the psychopathic individual's processing of peripheral information and self-regulation when they are engaged in goal-directed behavior (C. M. Patterson & J. P. Newman, 1993). Although more specific than the fearlessness hypothesis in some respects, the RM hypothesis makes the more general prediction that psychopathic individuals will have difficulty processing motivationally neutral as well as fear-related stimuli. The authors assessed this prediction by using psychopathic and nonpsychopathic male inmates subdivided by level of anxiety/negative affectivity (NA). As predicted by the RM hypothesis, peripheral presentation of motivationally neutral cues produced significantly less interference in low-NA psychopathic individuals than in low-NA controls.
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