Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy - Day 1
Session 1 - Lay Perceptions of Psychopathy
Day two presented the delegates with highly competitive tracks. The emphasis of track two this morning was furthering our understanding of the laypersons’ perceptions and understanding of psychopathy. Nicholas Ostapchuk (University of Toronto) kicked us off by establishing lay theories and attitudes about psychopathy. We know that not all psychopaths are criminals, however, laypersons often believe psychosis-related items are prototypical of psychopathy. Movies and television was endorsed most often about sources of psychopathy related information 85% biological explanations are now being more endorsed and less amenable to treatment. Educational video can reduce some of the core myths around psychopathy, but still lots of research to do to refine educational programmes and how we disseminate this information to the public. Further elaboration on this topic by Vasia Karasavva (Carleton University) shows that on average, males and females have similar perceptions of who psychopaths are, however those who have been victims are more ready to recognise that such individuals may be personal connections rather than just real and fictional serial killers. Kasia Uzieblo (Ghent University) discussed the benefit of a couple-centred approach in the perceptual accuracy of a partner’s psychopathic personality. Results indicated that 86% of men and women agreed on their perceived psychopathic personality, and that female-perceived psychopathy was related to relationship dissatisfaction and the greater use of maladaptive conflict resolution strategies. Partner reported psychopathy scores predicted violent behaviour. Finally, Karolina Sörman (Karolinska Institute) introduced the concept of the ‘lay judge’; a key decision maker who should be educated about psychopathy (alongside other mental disorders). Psychopathy is seen as an aggravating factor, not a mitigating factor, and as such, judges support the use of forensic care and court supervision for such individuals. Although we can’t be sure as to why lay judges make the decisions they do, it seems important to provide education as to psychopathy etiologic and treatment possibilities.
Session 2 - Psychopaths as Social Predators
To be successful, psychopaths need to be attuned at selecting and manipulating their victims and to avoid detection whilst all the while taking risks. This statement is reflected in Ted Bundy’s claim that he could always identify a potential victim just from walking down the streets. Beth Visser (University of Wisconsin-Madison) suggested that individuals with higher psychopathic traits can predict pre-victimised women just from their gaits, and more importantly, those who have offended can specify that their decisions are as a result of this walk. Moreover, psychopaths are better at rating the non-obvious personality traits of past victims (e.g., lower in agreeableness and higher in openness to experience) - but it remains to be seen what they do with that information. Next, John Logan presented the work of Angel Mackenzie (Carleton University). Higher levels of psychopathy are associated with lower accuracy in recognising emotion; resulting in a less empathetic response to stimuli. When all information is presented, higher-scoring psychopaths are less accurate compared to lower-scoring psychopaths, a result which is replicable. However, when shorter stimuli are used, higher emotion recognition accuracy is found, which also better-evokes empathy. Kristopher Brazil (Brock University) suggested that psychopathy might be an “appealing mask of sanity”. Psychopathy is very damaging, not only to others, but to the life of the psychopath. However, psychopaths might be able to optimise their chance of surviving and reproducing. Psychopathic men were able to elicit trust in women, but not men. Single women trusted the men with higher psychopathic traits, and traits such as emotionality and openness predicted higher ratings of trust. Moreover, attractiveness predicted desirability, a relationship which was increased in individuals with higher psychopathy. Finally, Angela Book (Brock University) asked whether psychopaths interpret fear differently - and if they enjoy it. Psychopath’s definitions of fear were typically more positive (used more positive adjectives) and they evidenced less endorsement of negative adjectives to fearful video games as well as higher scores of fear enjoyment.
Session 3 - Social Functioning in Individuals With or at Risk of Developing Psychopathy
Rebecca Waller (University of Pennsylvania) opened the third session of the day by highlighting the escalation of published literature in the area of callous unemotional traits. Conducting a meta analysis of work in this area, Walker’s group found that the negative association between CU traits and empathy is consistent, and not a function of age, sex, or severity. But what is the right level of measurement of empathy? Concern for others or empathic arousal in oneself. Small amount of studies assessing the relationships between CU traits and guilt, possibly typified by the difficulty in reliably measuring this concept. Next, Luke Hyde (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor) discussed current research in the area of amygdala activation in regards to CU traits. In a large sample of impoverished, ethnic-minority individuals, great antisocial behaviour was related to greater bilateral amygdala activation to all faces, not just fearful faces, however and unexpectedly, CU traits were not directly related to amygdala activation, and in fact there was a strong, positive connectivity to the insula and vmPFC. Arielle Baskin-Sommers (Yale University) highlighted that instructions around empathy-related tasks can underpin our findings in regards to amygdala activation. Psychopaths have trouble unless they are deliberately asked to tale perspective of others or the task is framed in some sort of self-serving manner. However, when given tasks involving automatic perspective taking (when the perspective of others interferes with your own perspective), high-scoring psychopathic offenders were less influenced by the perspective of others in their response. This also related to histrionic violent crime. Finally, Inti Brazil (Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour & Radboud University) evidenced that antisocial offenders engage in complex social learning, not just related to simple preservation. If you let psychopathic offenders “catch up”, they have the opportunity to overcome this impairment.
5 minute Blitz Talks
Untreated mental disorders which are present when offenders enter their relative institutions might act to inflate PCL-R scores. However, how do we action this finding in time- and resource-strict settings?
Between pre- and post- training, psychopathy scores were associated with lower levels of empathy change in individuals taking part in Guardian-Orientated basic law enforcement training.
Differential factors of psychopathy underpin the success of offenders to avoid detection and re-conviction.
Boldness protects against the effects of PTSD, whereas meanness and disinhibition show higher presence of PTSD, maybe related to individual traumatic events. Psychopathy should be treated as a heterogeneous concept in this field.
Psychopathy mediates the relationship between exposure to violence and both violent behaviour and aggression more broadly in community and forensic samples after controlling for childhood maltreatment.
Dysregulation in emotional regulation is a precursor to antisocial behaviour in whose with CU traits, particularly in males and as such this has sex specific treatment implications.
Individuals with conduct disorder with high, but not low CU traits were associated with more positive, but not negative parenting styles.
Aberrant effort-cost sensitivity during decision-making is associated with externalising behaviours, but not psychopathic traits. However, as required effort increased, individuals with high scores on interpersonal manipulation were more likely to effort.