Research has suggested that psychopathic characteristics exist along a continuum extending into the normal population (Andershed, Gustafson, Kerr, & Stattin, 2002; Ross, Lutz, & Bailley, 2004; Williams, Paulhus, & Hare, 2007). Individuals high in subclinical psychopathy were expected to show the same pattern of diminished psychophysiological responding to negative stimuli that incarcerated psychopathic individuals have shown. The callous affect (CA) dimension of psychopathy was expected to be associated with physiological differences as this is considered the core element of psychopathy. Level of CA was compared for skin conductance response (SCR) magnitude to empathy evoking versus threatening stimuli. This was done to determine whether reduced response to negative stimuli was associated with fearlessness, lack of empathy, or both. A marginally reliable effect suggested that individuals with higher scores on CA showed stronger emotional responses to for threat than for empathy evoking images. By comparison, individuals low on CA showed stronger emotional responses to empathy than to threat stimuli. It was also hypothesized that individuals with greater psychopathic tendencies would take longer to process emotional stimuli compared to individuals with less psychopathic tendencies. It was expected this would be shown by longer SCR latency. Higher scores on the CA dimension of psychopathy was found to be positively correlated with longer SCR latencies to threat and empathy stimuli compared to individuals who reported less CA. This supported the hypothesis that individuals with more psychopathic CA take longer to process and respond to emotion. Additionally, individuals with higher overall psychopathic characteristics were significantly delayed in their SCRs to threatening stimuli, but not to empathy or neutral. This suggested that in addition to previous literature that has indicated that individuals higher in psychopathy show reduced SCR to negative stimuli they also show delayed SCR response to threatening stimuli. This suggested that individuals high in psychopathic characteristics show temporal differences in responding to threatening stimuli, such that it takes them longer to process threatening stimuli.

LLU Discipline

General Psychology




School of Science and Technology

First Advisor

Haerich, Paul E.

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded

January 2011

Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Psychopaths; Antisocial Personality Disorder; Psychotic Disorders; Personality -- psychology

Subject - Local

Psychopathic characteristics; Subclinical Psychopathy



Page Count

72 p.

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives

Included in

Psychology Commons