Early descriptions of psychopathy emphasise fearlessness and a lack of nervousness or anxiety as key characteristics of the disorder. However, conflicting evidence suggests that anxiety may be positively correlated with some aspects of the psychopathy construct. This position may seem somewhat paradoxical when considered alongside impaired processing of fear related stimuli in psychopathic personality. The aim of the current paper was to examine the distinct relations of callous, egocentric, and antisocial psychopathic traits with measures of anxiety and social anxiety in samples of non-offenders (Study 1) and violent offenders (Study 2). In Study 2 we also used an emotion recognition task to examine fearful face recognition. In Studies 1 and 2 we showed distinct and opposite significant relationships of egocentric and antisocial psychopathic traits with trait anxiety. Thus, while trait anxiety was negatively predicted by egocentric traits, it was predicted in a positive direction by antisocial traits in both samples. In Study 2 we found that callous traits were predictive of greater impairments in fearful face recognition. These findings suggest that anxiety and fear are distinguishable constructs in relation to psychopathic personality traits, and are discussed in terms of potentially separable mechanisms for these two constructs.
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© 2015 Gillespie et al.This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)