Emotion at the Expense of Cognition: Psychopathic Individuals Outperform Controls on an Operant Response Task

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The impact of emotional stimuli on a simple motor response task in individuals with psychopathy and comparison individuals was investigated. Psychopathy was assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist Revised (Hare, 1991). Participants were presented with the Emotional Interrupt Task, in which they responded with left and right button presses to shapes that were temporally bracketed by positive, negative, and neutral visual images taken from the International Affective Picture System. The comparison group showed increased response latencies if the shape was temporally bracketed by either a positive or negative emotional stimulus relative to a neutral stimulus. Individuals with psychopathy did not show this modulation of reaction time for either positive or negative emotional stimuli. Results are discussed with reference to current models regarding the modulation of attention by emotion and the emotional impairment seen in individuals with psychopathy.

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