Triarchic psychopathy and deficits in facial affect recognition. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: Impaired socialization due to amygdala dysfunction has been proposed as a factor underlying psychopathy. Supporting this hypothesis, some research indicates that psychopathy is associated with deficits in facial affect recognition, but other studies have failed to find such a relationship. This study investigated whether healthy young adults elevated in psychopathic traits displayed deficits in identifying facial affective displays overall as well as deficits specific to fear recognition. METHOD: Facial affect recognition was measured in a sample of 110 undergraduate men (n=36) and women (n=74). Participants completed the Triarchic Psychopathy Measure, and participants' eye gaze was measured using ASL Eye Trac 6. The facial affect recognition task was created using the NimStim facial expression stimuli. RESULTS: Individuals elevated in psychopathic traits did not display deficits in recognition of emotional faces overall or for fearful faces compared to individuals lower in psychopathic traits. However, meanness was negatively correlated with fear identification. CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that deficient emotion processing in psychopathic individuals may be specific to ambiguous affective expressions. We discuss implications for the study of psychopathy and emotion processing.

published proceedings

  • J Pers

altmetric score

  • 2

author list (cited authors)

  • Mowle, E. N., Edens, J. F., Ruchensky, J. R., & Penson, B. N.

citation count

  • 6

publication date

  • April 2019