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Psychopathy, startle blink modulation, and electrodermal reactivity in twin men


  • This work was supported by grants MH17069, MH48657, MH52384, and MH65137 from the National Institutes of Mental Health and by funds from the Graduate Research Partnership Program and the Hathaway endowment at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. We thank Edward Bernat and Steve M. Malone for their invaluable technical consultation and assistance in data reduction. Portions of this work were presented at the Developmental and Neuroscience Perspectives on Psychopathy conference in Madison, Wisconsin, July 17–19, 2003, at the 42nd meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research in Chicago, Illinois, October 29–November 2, 2003, and were submitted in partial fulfillment of Stephen D. Benning's Master's degree.

Address reprint requests to: Stephen D. Benning or Christopher J. Patrick, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Elliott Hall, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. E-mail: or


Psychopathy is a personality disorder with interpersonal–emotional and antisocial deviance facets. This study investigated these facets of psychopathy prospectively using normal-range personality traits in a community sample of young adult men who completed a picture-viewing task that included startle blink and skin conductance measures, like tasks used to study psychopathy in incarcerated men. Consistent with prior research, scores on the interpersonal–emotional facet of psychopathy (“fearless dominance”) were associated with deficient fear-potentiated startle. Conversely, scores on the social deviance facet of psychopathy (“impulsive antisociality”) were associated with smaller overall skin conductance magnitudes. Participants high in fearless dominance also exhibited deficient skin conductance magnitudes specifically to aversive pictures. Findings encourage further investigation of psychopathy and its etiology in community samples.