Psychophysiological evidence of psychopathy as a normal range personality construct in a university sample of females.
Access changed 10-31-11.
While there has been steady progress in identifying psychophysiological traits associated with psychopathy, most of the research has been carried out using incarcerated male participants. It is not presently clear whether recent reports of attenuated P3 amplitudes are representative of psychopathy per se, or a characteristic related to secondary traits such as antisocial behavior or externalizing vulnerability. This study examined both affective startle blink modulation and P3 amplitudes in a sample of female undergraduates grouped by scores on the Psychopathic Personality Inventory. Those who demonstrated high levels of psychopathic traits lacked significant affective modulation of the startle response. Furthermore, this group showed significantly larger P3 amplitudes than those with low levels of psychopathic traits. This data supports the generalizability of deficient startle potentiation to a non-incarcerated psychopathic female population, and supports theories suggesting that primary psychopaths may show increased P3 amplitudes as an indicator of certain information processing proficiencies.