The Neurobiology of Psychopathy: A Focus on Emotion Processing

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to identify emotionally salient cues in the environment (including signals of reward and danger) and to respond appropriately is a core component of human social cognition (Darwin, 1872; Ekman, 2003; Phillips, Drevets, Rauch, and Lane, 2003a). Developmental deficits in social cognition are risk factors for maladjustment and psychiatric disorders across the life span (Izard, 1977; Green, Kern, Robertson, Sergi, and Kee, 2000; for reviews, see Blair, 2003; Phillips, Drevets, Rauch, and Lane, 2003b). In this chapter we focus on the developmental deficit in emotion processing observed in men with psychopathy: the factor known as Deficient Affective Experience from the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare, 1991) and from the screening version (PCL: SV; Hart, Cox, and Hare, 1995). The correlates of this emotional dysfunction observed in children are described. Next, the abnormalities in autonomic and cognitive functioning displayed by adults with psychopathy indicative of deficient emotion processing are reviewed. The structural and functional neurobiology of deficient affective processing among adults with psychopathy is described in detail and discussed in light of explanatory models arising from Damasio’s (1995) somatic marker hypothesis and Blair’s (1995) violence inhibition hypothesis. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the utility of brain imaging for identifying the neural deficits associated with psychopathy and a proposal for future research, with a specific focus on the development of deficient affective processing in men with psychopathy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Psychopath
Subtitle of host publicationTheory, Research, and Practice
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9781351541213
ISBN (Print)9781315085470
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


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