Deafness to fear in boys with psychopathic tendencies

Authors

  • R.J.R. Blair,

    1. Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Heath, Department of Health and Human Services, USA
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  • S. Budhani,

    1. Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Heath, Department of Health and Human Services, USA
    2. Department of Psychology, University College London, UK
    3. Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, UK
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  • E. Colledge,

    1. SGDP Research Center, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK
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  • S. Scott

    1. Department of Linguistics, University College London, UK
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James Blair, Chief, Unit on Affective Cognitive Neuroscience, Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, National Institute of Mental Health, 15K North Drive, Room 206, MSC 2670, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-2670, USA; Email: blairj@intra.nimh.nih.gov

Abstract

The processing of the emotional signals of others is fundamental for normal socialization and interaction. Reduced responsiveness to the expressions of sadness and fear has been implicated in the development of psychopathy (Blair, 1995). The current study investigates the ability of boys with psychopathic tendencies to process auditory affect information. Boys with psychopathic tendencies and a comparison group, as defined by the Antisocial Process Screening Device (APSD: Frick & Hare, 2001), were presented with neutral words spoken with intonations conveying happiness, disgust, anger, sadness and fear and were asked to identify the emotion of the speaker based on prosody. The boys with psychopathic tendencies presented with a selective impairment for the recognition of fearful vocal affect. These results are interpreted with reference to amygdala dysfunction and components of the Integrated Emotion Systems model.

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