Relations of distinct psychopathic personality traits with anxiety and fear : findings from offenders and non-offenders

Steven M Gillespie, Ian J Mitchell, Rose-Marie Satherley, Anthony R Beech, Pia Rotshtein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
171 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0143120
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2015


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