Threat signals of pain modulate defensive responses in observers development of an experimental paradigm
Goubert, Liesbet Caes, Line Uzieblo, Katarzyna De Ruddere, Lies Arnouts, Ake Crombez, Geert #
European Federation of Chapters of the International Association for the Study of Pain
European Journal of Pain vol:13 pages:275
Psychopathy is characterized by an emotional deficit and by manipulative interpersonal behavior (Cleckley, 1976). In order to manipulate successfully, it can be assumed that psychopathic individuals need to process other’s emotions to a certain extent. However, it remains unclear how the emotional deficit manifests itself within the interpersonal context. In the current study a startle paradigm was developed to examine the emotional reactivity in psychopathy when directly observing signals predicting pain in others. We expected that psychopathy would be related to diminished defensive responses to signals predicting pain in the other and to a less accurate pain estimation. Seventy-two female undergraduates participated in twos: Each participant was randomly allocated as an observed participant in the pain test or as an observing participant. Psychopathy was assessed with the Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (SRP-III; Paulhus, Hemphill, & Hare, in press). In line with our hypotheses, psychopathic individuals exhibited diminished defensive reactivity in anticipation of pain in the other participant, less accurate pain detection and a greater response bias compared to observers low in psychopathy. Hence, present results indicate a deviant emotional reactivity and a deviant emotional recognition in psychopathy when directly observing others in threatening situations.