Psychopathic individuals exhibit reduced brain activity when taking the perspective of another person who is experiencing fear, according to new research published in NeuroImage. The findings shed light on the underlying neurobiological mechanisms linked to psychopathy.
“Psychopathy takes an enormous financial and human toll on society. Lack of empathy is thought to be a key characteristic that contributes to psychopathic people’s behavior that victimizes other people,” said study author Philip Deming (@phil_deming), a PhD student in the Department of Psychology at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Research has shown that psychopathic people tend not to ‘share’ another person’s emotion, or feel emotion in response to another person’s emotion. It’s less clear from prior research whether psychopathic people have difficulty with another part of empathy, that is taking another person’s perspective to understand their emotion.”
In the study, 94 incarcerated offenders first completed an assessment of psychopathy and took an intelligence test. They then completed a perspective-taking and shape matching task while the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to record their brain activity.