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Psychopathy, pain, and pain empathy: A psychophysiological study

Alshukri, S, Lyons, M, Blinkhorn, V, Muñoz, L and Fallon, N (2024) Psychopathy, pain, and pain empathy: A psychophysiological study. PLOS ONE, 19 (7).

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The present study examined whether people higher in psychopathy experienced less self reported and psychophysiological nociceptive pressure than people lower in psychopathy. We also examined whether psychopathy affects empathy for others’ pain via self-reported and psychophysiological measures. Three hundred and sixty-nine students (18–78 years; M = 26, SD = 9.34) were screened for psychopathic traits using the Youth Psychopathy Inventory (YPI). Stratified sampling was used to recruit 49 adults residing in the highest (n = 23) and lowest (n = 26) 20% of the psychopathy spectrum. Using skin conductance response (SCR) and self-report responses, participants responded to individually adjusted intensities of pneumatic pressure and others’ pain images and completed self-reported psychopathy and empathy measures (Triarchic Psychopathy Measure, TriPm; Interpersonal Reactivity Index, IRI). People higher in psychopathy self-reported feeling less nociceptive pressure compared to people lower in psychopathy, yet we did not find any differences in SCR to nociceptive pressure. However, when viewing other people in pain, the high psychopathy group displayed lower SCR and lower self-reported empathy compared to those lower in psychopathy. Our results suggest psychopathic traits relate to problems empathising with others’ pain, as well as the perception of nociceptive pressure. We also show support for the theory of dual harm which has been receiving increasing attention. Consequently, psychopathy interventions should focus both on recognising and empathising with the pain of others.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: General Science & Technology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Psychology (from Sep 2019)
Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2024 09:31
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2024 09:31
DOI or ID number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0306461
Editors: De Luca, V
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/23713
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