Theory of Mind, Social Desirability, and Unlikely Symptom Reporting in Offenders With and Without Psychopathy

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Abstract

The current study investigated the relationship between psychopathy and theory of mind (ToM), by comparing the performance of nonpsychopathic offenders (n = 40), psychopathic offenders (n = 42), and nonoffender controls (n = 26) on Happé's test of ToM (Happé, 1994). In addition, we investigated whether offenders' ToM skills would moderate the association between the antisocial psychopathy component (Factor 2) and self-presentation (i.e., the tendency to report social desirability and unlikely symptoms). Results showed groups did not differ in ToM performance. As expected though, ToM moderated the association between psychopathy and self-presentation: only for offenders relatively high in ToM, Factor 2 was strongly related to less social desirability and more unlikely symptom reporting. These results could indicate that offenders who are high in both ToM and Factor 2 exaggerate their mental dysfunction to express their need for clinical attention. Results are used to critically evaluate the interpretation of occurrences in which offenders overplay their psychopathology.

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