Recognition of emotion in facial expressions and vocal tones in children with psychopathic tendencies

  • Stevens D
  • Charman T
  • Blair R
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Abstract

The authors investigated the ability of children with emotional and behavioral difficulties, divided according to their Psychopathy Screening Device scores (P. J. Frick & R. D. Hare, in press), to recognize emotional facial expressions and vocal tones. The Psychopathy Screening Device indexes a behavioral syndrome with two dimensions: affective disturbance and impulsive and conduct problems. Nine children with psychopathic tendencies and 9 comparison children were presented with 2 facial expression and 2 vocal tone subtests from the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy (S. Nowicki & M. P. Duke, 1994). These subtests measure the ability to name sad, fearful, happy, and angry facial expressions and vocal affects. The children with psychopathic tendencies showed selective impairments in the recognition of both sad and fearful facial expressions and sad vocal tone. In contrast, the two groups did not differ in their recognition of happy or angry facial expressions or fearful, happy, and angry vocal tones. The results are interpreted with reference to the suggestion that the development of psychopathic tendencies may reflect early amygdala dysfunction (R. J. R. Blair, J. S. Morris, C. D. Frith, D. I. Perrett, & R. Dolan, 1999).

Author-supplied keywords

  • Conduct disorder
  • Emotion
  • Empathy
  • Expression
  • Psychopathy

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Authors

  • D. Stevens

  • T. Charman

  • R. J.R. Blair

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