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PSYCH 356-001: Lecture #21

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Richard Eibach

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PSYCH 356-001: LECTURE #21 Wednesday, July 24 , 2013  Psychopaths / Sociopath o Interesting set of symptoms that are recognized distinctively in therapeutic settings o Symptoms and set of characters seems to go along together but the reason for this is uncertain. o Impressionistic in character Are there high functioning psychopaths?  Not all psychopathic personalities wound up to be criminals  need to have a broader conception of the phenomenon compared to the ones that are portrayed in the media  Abnormalities in the behaviour Insights into psychopathy from language use  Using expressions of language to describe variability of traits and personality  14 psychopathic and 38 non-psychopathic criminals convicted of homicide were interviewed and asked to describe their crimes o Control Group  the non psychopathic criminals o Psychopathic symptoms rated by prison psychologists included superficial charm, lack of remorse, pathological lying  Noted characteristic symptoms that are setting apart psychopaths from the non psychopathic criminals  Interviewed them and recorded their personal narratives of the crime committed  Recorded the types of language used to narrate the crimes  Word use patterns in autobiographical crime narratives were analyzed for themes related to need- satisfaction, emotional detachment, and justifying language (e.g., “because,” “in order to”) o Suggesting that these crimes permitted were means to end o Psychopaths when they commit murders  seems to be due to trivial needs  use individual lives to meet their needs and ends  Emotional disturbances  lower affect  detach themselves emotionally (less emotional involvement in their descriptions of their crimes)  Should be more likely to link the murder to an end therefore using “justifying language” o Non-psychopathic murders  low level means as motivations to commit their crimes  crimes motivated by higher levels of motives such as social, etc.  Results: o As they predicted psychopaths were significantly more likely to express low levels of physiological and safety needs as motivations for killing others compared to the control participants. o Psychopaths in the description of their crimes were more likely to express social needs such as family and religion o Psychopaths were more likely to use past tense references compared to the non- psychopaths  Less likely to use present tense compared to the controls  One suggestion that they were more remote from these crimes  indicator of emotional detachment  More frequent use of articles  Sign of distancing and tendency to look at things in an analytical way  suggestive of a pattern of emotional detachment o Psychopaths frequent use of justifying language  Subordinating conjunctives  think in terms of these causal terms  needs to ends  Indicators of callousness and lack of empathy  More likely to exhibit speech disfluencies  Monitoring things they say  Not engaged in an immerse engaged types of conversation context A self-regulation perspective  Social cognitive factors playing in the role of personality expression dynamics  Goals  Personal goals and social goals o Tools or adaptations that are used to help in self-regulation in adaptive social functional ways  Example: Relate to others in order to minimize conflict in the group  It’s adaptive to do unnecessary harm to others  adaptive value of remaining in a group will deteriorate if everyone is against one another  Recognize Careful monitor distress cues in order to avoid causing distress to others  Personal emotional aversion of cues of distress of others should be distressing to the self  The ability to anticipate and empathize with another’s distress inhibits individuals against intentionally inflicting harm on others  Psychopaths may have a deficit in empathy skills that disinhibits them from harming others o Lack emotional aversion of other signs of emotional distress Problem: the psychopath paradox - Psychopaths are often characterized as charming and successful manipulators - Yet, also characterized as lacking empathy o Conflict the characterization as a “superficial charming” personality - How do they manage to manipulate others if they lack empathy? Differentiating cognitive and emotional empathy - Cognitive empathy (e.g., cold empathy) refers to a person’s ability to accurately infer others’ thoughts and feelings - Emotional empathy (e.g., hot empathy) refers to a person’s capacity to respond appropriately to another person’s emotional state o At a cognitive level, recognize that a person is sad. However, you would not feel sad  match their sadness (ability to emotionally empathize the other person’s feelings) - Hypothesis: Psychopaths may have normal ability to recognize others’ thoughts and feelings, which allows them to predict and manipulate others. However, they may have a deficit in generating appropriate emotional responses to others’ states. In particular, they may have a deficit in generating sympathetic emotional responses to cues of others’ distress. o Reduced empathic stress response  decreased aversion to signs of stress and response Cognitive empathy: reading the mind in the eyes - Usually studied at early developmental stages - Autism or Aspergers spectrum design tasks in order to identify or diagnose symptoms of autism or aspergers. - Test works by: o Person exhibiting a specific emotion or mental thought  look at the eyes of the person and try to guess the thought process of the person - There was no significant difference from the performance of psychopaths and non-psychopaths in the ability to read the mind in the eyes. o Psychopaths have an intact ability of cognitive empathy o Psychopaths can guess better than the average person of guessing the mental thought processes of people. Testing Emotional Empathy - Physiological arousal (Skin-conductance responses) were monitored as a sample of psychopathic and non-psychopathic male prisoners were exposed to a series of colour slides showing one of three types of images: people in distress, threatening images, and neutral images - Prediction: psychopaths would show normal levels of arousal to the threatening images and neutral images (as compared to the non-psychopaths  no difference in the levels of arousal) however, psychopaths should show less emotional arousal to people in distress than non- ps
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