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In the eye of the beholder: psychopathy and pupil response to emotion

Burley, Daniel 2016. In the eye of the beholder: psychopathy and pupil response to emotion. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Psychopathy is a disorder of personality, typically characterised by interpersonal and affective personality traits as well as impulsive and irresponsible behaviour, with the disorder linked to antisocial behaviour. Psychopathy, in particular core interpersonal/affective psychopathy traits, is associated with an emotional impairment, which has been frequently associated to negative stimuli. However, evidence for autonomic responsivity during passive-viewing of emotion has been equivocal, although much previous research has failed to convincingly investigate this question. Therefore, the current thesis developed a pupillometry paradigm to measure autonomic responsivity during passive-viewing of negatively and positively valenced images, static facial expressions, dynamic facial expressions and sound-clips as a function of psychopathy traits. Chapter 2 highlighted the importance of controlling for luminance, contrast and colour for complex visual stimuli due to their constrictive effect on pupil diameter, as well as demonstrating that presentation duration and habituation play little role in moderating emotional modulation of pupil diameter to visual stimuli. Chapter 3 investigated psychopathy within a population of 102 (52 female) undergraduate students, finding that no dimension of the Triarchic Psychopathy Measure was related to pupil responsivity to emotion, although this was likely due to a lack of psychopathy within the sample. Chapter 4 explored psychopathy within 82 male forensic psychiatric patients, observing that the interpersonal/affective dimension of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) was selectively associated to early pupil hypo-responsivity to negative stimuli, but not positive stimuli, and this pattern was consistent across images, dynamic facial expressions and sound-clips. The lifestyle/antisocial dimension of the PCL-R was unrelated to pupil responsivity to emotion. These findings implicate that individuals high in interpersonal/affective psychopathy traits have an underlying deficient defensive motivational system that extends to autonomic responsivity during passive-viewing of negative stimuli, as well as suggesting the existence of an attentional/processing XII impairment given that autonomic hypo-responsivity emerged only for early pupil reactivity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 May 2017
Date of Acceptance: 8 May 2017
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2021 02:26

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