Considering that differences on Stroop interference between forensic and non-forensic participants were not significant, it would be necessary to use other tasks to better detect differences in this executive function and test if disinhibition is the best phenotypic candidate to capture poor inhibitory control.
Interestingly, disinhibition predicted reduced sensitivity to the signal during the N-Back.
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It suggests that updating abilities may play an important role in the executive deficits of individuals characterized by high traits of disinhibition. Updating requires the capacity to dynamically monitor, control, replace, and manipulate information in working memory. If the updating component is affected in disinhibition, the ability to acquire new and relevant information may be compromised, limiting learning from past experiences. To date, studies had only evidenced a positive association between fearlessness-related traits of psychopathy and updating Hansen et al.
Our study adds evidence on the opposite pattern for the disinhibition phenotype.
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Previously studies on P3 — a neurophysiological correlate of updating — reported P3 blunted amplitude in individuals scoring high on impulsive and antisocial traits of psychopathy Carlson et al. Our results seem to be capturing this effect at a behavioral level. In line with the abovementioned studies Hansen et al. For instance, P3 amplitude is also found to be increased in fearlessness-related traits, as boldness Pasion et al.
The trend for a dissociable effect with disinhibition strengths the assumption that boldness is an adaptive phenotype, by explaining improved ability to encode and manipulate relevant information in the working memory. A significant negative association was evidenced between age and updating and an increase to a medium effect size was found in the model in which disinhibition, but not boldness, remained a significant predictor of impaired updating.
Group was a non-significant moderator. The performance on shifting was not explained by the distinct phenotypic expressions of psychopathy. Group was a non-significant moderator and years of education emerged as the unique predictor of enhanced shifting abilities. The lack of consistent and significant associations between psychopathic traits and shifting was reported in previous studies Sellbom and Verona, ; Mahmut et al.
Taken together, the current study highlights that psychopathic personality traits explain in a great extent EF than incarceration. The documented group differences in EF were suppressed when psychopathic traits were introduced in the regression models. Moreover, our study found evidence for the etiological dissociation proposed by Patrick et al. Meanness and disinhibition were associated with maladaptive behavior recidivism and past substance abuse , and traits of the disinhibition phenotype were higher in the forensic group. Disinhibition and meanness were found to be moderately correlated and are systematically referred to in the prototypical conceptualization of criminal psychopaths Patrick et al.
The externalizing manifestation of psychopathy high disinhibition in combination with high meanness also evidenced a poor EF. Meanness and disinhibition predicted negatively the performance on inhibition and updating tasks, respectively.
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Deficits in EF may explain the higher risk for persistent rule breaking as frequently observed in antisocial behavior Baskin-Sommers et al. Executive impairments Ishikawa et al. In turn, a disposition toward low fear may constitute a key component for the adaptive social functioning. The boldness-fearlessness expression of psychopathy i. Accordingly, we found higher boldness in the community sample, and these traits accounted for enhanced inhibitory control. Better inhibitory control may prevent disruptive, aggressive and violent behavior to occur in individuals with high boldness traits.
The ability to remain calm in stressful and unfamiliar contexts may result in a circumstance that puts these individuals in a favorable position to reach high performance. In a coherent picture, improved EF Ishikawa et al. It is important to acknowledge that meanness shares the etiological pathway of low fear with boldness.
Nevertheless, the operationalization of meanness in the triarchic psychopathy measure addresses secondary features of externalization designed from the same self-report that operationalizes disinhibition Patrick, , Unpublished. The behavioral manifestations of meanness comprise arrogance, defiance of authority, a lack of emotional attachment, aggressive competitiveness, physical cruelty and exploitation toward others, premeditated aggression, and excitement seeking through destructiveness Patrick et al. Therefore, the link between meanness and externalizing vulnerability seems to be stronger than the one with low fear.
Supporting that meanness and disinhibition are close phenotypes, a weak correlation between boldness and meanness was found in our study, in contrast with the moderate association between disinhibition and meanness. The dissociation of psychopathy traits highlights that dimensional models are promising to clarify conflicting results from studies assessing EF as a single construct and psychopathy as a homogeneous construct. Studies examining EF deficits in psychopathy remained focused on the taxonomic differences between psychopaths and non-psychopaths.
Of studies investigating the EF components of the Miyake et al. Moving toward dimensional models will allow to analyze psychopathy in terms of its distinct phenotypes. This may help to shed light on differential relations with brain and behavior that are not evidenced when using total scores. Although common to most studies in this field, the main methodological limitations of this study should be outlined. Firstly, psychopathy scores were based on self-report measures, which raise questions of social desirability bias, particularly in individuals who may be highly manipulative.
Secondly, as we did not cross information with judicial authorities, eventual criminal acts in the community sample may have gone unnoticed.
Third, the samples were matched according to the total psychopathy scores. While this procedure allows one to explore the distinct prevalence of phenotypic expressions of psychopathy among samples that do not differ in their variation in terms of total scores, it may also force the selection of non-forensic participants who have high psychopathy scores, and who score highly on certain phenotypes that are not typical of non-forensic participants more generally.
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Finally, the cross-sectional nature of this study limits the inference of causal relationships between psychopathy phenotypes and EF. Regardless of the above limitations, our results suggest that inconsistent findings regarding EF on psychopathy may be explained, at least partly, by a variable representation of disinhibition, meanness, and boldness phenotypes across samples. Therefore, disentangling the psychopathic personality structure into its distinctive phenotypes may favor an accurate analysis of their specific correlates.
Future research should extend the main findings and accumulate knowledge to establish a robust association between triarchic dimensions of psychopathy and EF, both in forensic and community samples, controlling not only for the criminal trajectory but also related variables such as socioeconomic status and incarceration effects. All subjects gave written informed consent in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.
RP and AC collected the data. RP analyzed the data and prepared the paper. AC and FB reviewed the paper.
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FB supervised the study. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Bagshaw, R. Executive function in psychopathy: the tower of london, brixton spatial anticipation and the hayling sentence completion tests. Psychiatry Res.
Baskin-Sommers, A. Mapping the association of global executive functioning onto diverse measures of psychopathic traits. Benson, M. Are white-collar and common offenders the same?
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An empirical and theoretical critique of a recently proposed general theory of crime. Crime Delinq. Carlson, S. ERPs on a continuous performance task and self-reported psychopathic traits: P3 and CNV augmentation are associated with fearless dominance. Visual P3 amplitude and self-reported psychopathic personality traits: frontal reduction is associated with self-centered impulsivity.
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