Attention Moderates the
Relationship Between
Primary Psychopathy and
Affective Empathy in
Undergraduate Students

Psychological Reports
0(0) 1–22
! The Author(s) 2016
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DOI: 10.1177/0033294116667699

Ayame Tamura
Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University, Japan; Japan
Society for the Promotion of Science, Japan

Yoshinori Sugiura
Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University, Japan

Tomoko Sugiura
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Japan

Jun Moriya
Graduate School of Sociology, Kansai University, Japan

Psychopathy is personality traits, which is consisted of primary psychopathy characterized by affective and interpersonal problems and secondary psychopathy characterized
by behavioral problems. Prior researchers have suggested that people with psychopathy
have peculiar attention, which prevents them from detecting information peripheral to
their concern, and we hypothesized that this explains their low empathy. Based on these
reasoning, the present study assessed whether attention moderates the relationship
between psychopathy and affective empathy. Eighty-five undergraduates (40 men and 45
women; mean age ¼ 19.8 years; SD ¼ 1.6) completed the Levenson Self-Report
Psychopathy Scale, the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, and a perceptual load task.
Hierarchical regression showed that a significant moderation effect was found: primary
psychopathy was negatively associated with affective empathy, among those with
reduced interference from task-irrelevant stimuli under a medium level of perceptual
load. Future study should need to replicate this finding with clinical population.
Psychopathy, empathy, attention
Corresponding Author:
Ayame Tamura, Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University,
Higashi-Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan.


Psychological Reports 0(0)

Psychopathy is a personality trait that is represented by two components of the
Psychopathy Checklist–Revised (PCL–R; Hare et al., 1990). Whereas primary
psychopathy is characterized by affective and interpersonal features, represented
by cruelty, manipulativeness, low fear, and low empathy, secondary psychopathy is characterized by behavioral features, such as an impulsive and antisocial
lifestyle. A number of studies have explored the latent structure of psychopathy
with criminal samples by using a taxometric approach with the results suggesting
that psychopathy has a continuous dimensional, rather than a taxonic structure
(e.g., Edens, Marcus, & Vaughn, 2011; Walters, 2014). In addition, the major
characteristics of psychopathy (i.e., low empathy and worse performance on a
task that measures executive function) were shown to manifest in noncriminal
groups, which are similar to those of the findings with criminal groups (e.g.,
Mahmut, Homewood, & Stevenson, 2008). Recently, researchers have begun
focusing on cases of successful psychopaths who could adequately display characteristics of psychopathy but were adapted to social life (Lilienfeld, Watts,
& Smith, 2015). Therefore, studies of psychopathy with nonclinical samples
have become popular because it is informative to investigate the common
correlates and/or mechanisms in both noncriminal and criminal samples (e.g.,
Ali & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2010; Mahmut et al., 2008; Sadeh & Verona, 2008).
This study aimed to clarify the mechanism of low empathy, which is an
important feature of psychopathy, in a nonclinical undergraduate sample.
Empathy is the ability to feel or understand others’ feelings or emotions and
plays an important role in components of social behaviors, such as moral reasoning, inhibition of aggression, and other-oriented social emotions (Decety &
Lamm, 2006). Empathy is a multidimensional construct, and many studies have
distinguished cognitive from affective empathy (Cox, Uddin, Di Martino,
Castellanos, Milham, & Kelly, 2012; Davis, 1983; Shamay-Tsoory, 2011).
Cognitive empathy is the ability to comprehend other people’s emotional
states, while affective empathy is the ability to vicariously experience others’
emotional states. The traditional view suggests that the low empathy in psychopathy is due to affective empathy because people who exhibit psychopathy are
characterized by dysfunctions in general emotion arousal. In fact, a number of
previous studies with both criminal (Blair et al., 2004; Kosson, Suchy, Mayer,
& Libby, 2002) and noncriminal (Ali, Amorim, & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2009)
samples have revealed that people who exhibit psychopathy have difficulty with
affective responses and emotion recognition. These studies support the suggestion of an amygdala dysfunction in psychopathy (Blair, 2005). On the other
hand, it is thought that some people diagnosed with psychopathy have no
problems with cognitive empathy, especially as it relates to the theory of mind
(Blair et al., 1996; Richell et al., 2003), although some recent studies have
reported poor performance on some theory of mind tasks in psychopathy
(Ali & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2010 for undergraduates; Dolan & Fullam, 2004

upper or lower case letters) stimuli. These attention characteristics in criminal psychopathy have also been observed using other attention tasks related to response conflict. it is possible that psychopathy is related to problems with both affective and cognitive empathy (Reniers et al. Dadds.8. That is... Furthermore. & Newman.e. Wimalaweera. 2006). Pasalich. 2009). & Guastella. 2008 for nonclinical adolescents.e. & Newman. 2007) and modified flanker task (Zeier et al. p < . These findings indicate that overfocused attention moderates the relationship between psychopathy and fear response. in general.70.g.05. & Baskin-Sommers. That is. For example. (2010) examined the response modulation theory with 125 prisoners and measured fear-potentiated startle (FPS) by asking participants to focus their attention on either threat-relevant (i. 2011 for children diagnosed with . Hawes. Hiatt.. We expected that this theory will expand to include low empathy from the original low fear.800) and that there was a negative association between psychopathy and FPS when participants focused on threatirrelevant stimuli condition (B ¼ . 3 for offenders). O’Kearney. p < .52. 2004. Vitale. the mechanism underlying this low empathy remains unclear. F(1. Newman. A response modulation theory has been proposed as one such mechanism (e. 123) ¼ 5. where red was accompanied by electric shocks) or threat-irrelevant (i. This is partly because empathy shares mechanisms with emotion. B ¼5. Curtin. Jambrak. this particular attentional mechanism might provide a more thorough explanation of the broad affective problems associated with psychopathy. Brinkley.g. 2010). such as the Stroop test (Hiatt. For example. people who exhibit psychopathy tend to be insensitive to threat cues due to their exclusively goal-directed focus of attention (Zeier.. Maxwell. people with high psychopathy scores tend to pay less attention to socially relevant cues. Therefore.28. & Newman. p ¼ . Schmitt.Tamura et al. Empirical studies have examined the mechanism by which people who exhibit criminal psychopathy experience low levels of fear. such as other people’s eyes. 2009). Bertsch. when they are required to recognize others’ emotion (e. McKone. however. people with high scores in the measures of psychopathy would display a normal response to fear information in situations when attention is focused on fear-relevant information. Newman et al. and with attention (Decety & Lamm. & Brennan..001). Dadds. among prisoners with high psychopathy scores. and Palermo (2012) reviewed the emotion recognition skills in both criminal and noncriminal psychopathy and indicated that attention underlies the observed difficulties with general emotion recognition (not only fear recognition) in psychopathy. 2012). Dawel. On the basis of the response modulation theory. Masry. The results of the general linear model showed that attentional focus had a moderating effect on the relationship between psychopathy and FPS. red or green color. A follow-up simple effects test indicated that there was no significant association between psychopathy and FPS when participants were instructed to direct their attention toward threat-relevant stimuli (B ¼ ..

however. which is regarded as an emotional response to others. Prior studies using the response modulation theory have reported that attention moderates the relationship between primary psychopathy and fear response. which prevent people from detecting peripheral information that is outside of their goal. we hypothesized that the association between psychopathy and affective empathy may be moderated by attentional characteristics. they have spare capacity to process such stimuli. In relation to this point. Newman et al. a significant moderation effect of attention on the relationship between psychopathy and empathy should be found at a medium level of perceptual load. based on correlation analysis (r ¼ . 2011. To assess the magnitude of interference of task-irrelevant stimuli. According to Lavie (2005). In this way. whereas cognitive empathy is indicative of the understanding of others’ mental condition (Davis. when people process a number of task-relevant stimuli (i..e. they lack the capacity to perceive task-irrelevant stimuli. Therefore. Curtin. we expected that the moderation effect would only occur for the relationship between primary psychopathy and affective empathy. Overall. 2010). 2008). p < . when perceptual load is low. However.06. Sadeh and Verona (2008) examined the relationship between psychopathy and perceptual load task with a sample of 100 individuals.4 Psychological Reports 0(0) conduct problems using the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental.25. Therefore. and but not between secondary psychopathy and fear response (Baskin-Sommers. we focused on the differences between primary and secondary psychopathy. 1994). 2p ¼ . the general emotional problems associated with psychopathy are linked to affective empathy. Hypothesis. 93) ¼ 5.05.63. Further. 26 of whom were community and 74 subject samples. More specifically. perceptual load is high). no study has yet examined whether attention moderates the relationship between psychopathy and empathy. p < . & Newman. F(1. we used the perceptual load task modified by Maylor and Lavie (1998) because the inherent feature-based attention in psychopathy is considered to reduce attention to taskirrelevant stimuli.05) and follow-up analysis of analysis of variance. as psychopathy showed reduced interference when under a medium level of perceptual load (Sadeh & Verona.. The magnitude of interference from task-irrelevant stimuli at a medium level of perceptual load task will moderate the relationship between primary . we addressed this gap in the literature by measuring self-reported psychopathy and empathy and measured attention using an interference of task-irrelevant stimuli via an experimental paradigm. in this study. They reported that psychopathy was negatively associated with the processing of task-irrelevant stimuli at a medium level of perceptual load. We expected that response modulation theory would also explain the observed low empathy in individuals exhibiting psychopathy because goaloriented attention can provide a plausible explanation for the general emotional problems that are associated with psychopathy. Fourth Edition by the American Psychiatric Association. 1983).

were excluded from the statistical analyses due to technical problems during data collection.5) participated in this study. satisfactory test–retest reliability (N ¼ 70. Levenson et al. and low-load conditions.83). medium-. That is. and additional validity using a large sample of 1958 undergraduates.7 years. Kiehl. M age ¼ 19. The taxometric analysis of the LSRP also provided evidence for a dimensional structure in relation to the distribution of psychopathy in a criminal sample (Walters. Method Participants Ninety-eight Japanese undergraduate students (45 men and 53 women. respectively. After questionnaires with missing data were excluded. Measures The Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale. Magaletta. and Jones (1999).58) were used for analysis. SD ¼ 1. and three participants from the high-. The data from two. & Fitzpatrick. thus. Further evidence for the scale’s acceptable psychometric properties was provided by Lynam. 5 psychopathy and affective empathy. The primary psychopathy subscale consists of 16 items assessing affective and interpersonal features (sample items are ‘‘Success is based on survival of the fittest’’ and ‘‘I am not concerned about losers’’). three participants completed only the perceptual load task and not the questionnaires. 1995) is a 26-item self-report measure with two subscales that are designed to assess psychopathic attributes in a noninstitutionalized population. Due to time limitations. SD ¼ 1. Brinkley.Tamura et al. four. whereas the secondary psychopathy subscale consists of 10 items assessing behavioral and impulsivity features (a sample item is ‘‘I find myself in the same kinds of trouble. who found a strong replication level for the two-factor structure. The Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (LSRP. All participants had normal or corrected-to-normal vision. Levenson.78 years. Whiteside. Sugiura and Sato (2005) developed the Japanese version of the LSRP through back-translation . then. Items are rated on a four-point scale ranging from 1 (Strongly disagree) to 4 (Strongly agree). & Diamond. time after time’’). 85 participants data (40 men and 45 women. (1995) developed and initially validated the LSRP with a sample of 487 undergraduate students. they were able to complete the perceptual load task. mean age ¼ 19. r ¼ . 2008). primary psychopathy will be negatively associated with affective empathy when people with high primary psychopathy show reduced interference from task-irrelevant stimuli at a medium level of perceptual load.

empathic concern.77 for the LSRP total scale. For these reasons. and Ohira (2007) reported further psychometric evidence supporting its construct validity. which assesses the tendency to identify with fictitious characters (a sample item is ‘‘I really get involved with the feelings of the characters in a novel’’). concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me’’). The alpha coefficient of the original version was . Kanayama. Davis (1980) reported that in a sample of 1161 undergraduate students. 1995). Coefficient omegas in the current sample were . Evidence of adequate convergent and discriminant validity has also been provided (Davis.43 for the latter. 2011). Davis. Corcoran. However. 2012.63 for the secondary psychopathy subscale (Levenson et al. previous reports have supported its acceptability (e.81).g.. each of the four subscales of the IRI displayed satisfactory temporal stability (N ¼ 109... Shryane. 1983). Drake. Stevens. where empathic concern assesses other-oriented feelings of sympathy and concern for others (a sample item is ‘‘I often have tender. 1983). and fantasy.. Sugiura & Sugiura.61–. Reniers.77 for the primary psychopathy subscale. The Interpersonal Reactivity Index. are facets of cognitive empathy. Coefficient omegas in the current sample were .61 for the secondary psychopathy subscale. The low internal consistency reliability for the empathic concern subscale may be because the Japanese version of the IRI has not been . Although the internal consistency reliability of the secondary psychopathy is low.6 Psychological Reports 0(0) of each item. we used only the perspective taking and empathic concern subscales. and Osumi. and personal distress. The other two subscales are facets of affective empathy. Shane. adequate test–retest reliability (N ¼ 77. Harenski. Levenson et al. 2006.81) and internal consistency reliability (as ¼ . 2009). & Kiehl. 1995.78). & Vo¨llm. 1983) is a 28-item self-report scale that assesses multidimensional empathy via the following four subscales: perspective taking. rs ¼ .82 for the primary psychopathy subscale and . 2011). 1994) found adequate validity for this Japanese version. Sugiura. The Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI. rs ¼ . Both perspective taking.76 for the former subscale and . Items are rated on a four-point scale ranging from 1 (Strongly disagree) to 4 (Strongly agree). which assesses the tendency to spontaneously adopt the psychological view of others (a sample item is ‘‘I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective’’). and factor structure using a sample of 475 undergraduate students. and most studies used only these two subscales (Cox et al. fantasy. Recent studies suggest that the fantasy and personal distress scales of the IRI have validity problems because the definition of empathy used was too broad (Jolliffe & Farrington. the perspective taking and empathic concern subscales have demonstrated more construct validity as indices of cognitive empathy and affective empathy (Davis.70–. and . .72–. and personal distress assesses personal responses to others’ emergencies (a sample item is ‘‘Being in a tense emotional situation scares me’’). Sakurai (1988) translated the IRI into Japanese and later (Sakurai.

Therefore.g. Perceptual load task. incompatible.g. or neutral with the target. After excluding the items. Pelli. The participants completed the blocks of stimuli for the three load conditions in a random order. They were also instructed to ignore the perceptual load letters and task-irrelevant stimuli and to focus on the fixation point at the center of circle. we conducted a confirmatory factor analysis using the 14 items of the empathic concern and perspective taking subscales. after which a circle of six letters appeared that consisted of one target letter (X or N) with zero. then the fixation cross was presented until the participant responded. and 192 experimental trials. All stimuli were presented on an Epson Endeavor AY301 computer with a 19-inch Sharp LL-T19D1-H screen. as quickly as possible. and high). The circle of letters and distractors were presented for 100 ms. which were compatible. The compatibility effect (CE) is an index of the degree of interference from the task-irrelevant stimuli. medium. Feedback regarding accuracy was only provided during the practice block. we conducted all analyses using only four items for empathic concern. 7 back-translated (Sakurai.Tamura et al. also appeared to the right or left outside the circle. To assess attention. constituting each of three load conditions (low. and prior factor analyses have revealed that some items have low factor loadings (Sakurai. The participants’ response times (RTs) and accuracy scores were obtained from their keyboard responses.. or five perceptual load items. 1997). A larger CE represents greater interference from task-irrelevant stimuli. In the perceptual load task. or P). The taskirrelevant stimuli (X. after excluding the three items with factor loadings <. 1988). distractor letter X for target X) of different from the target letter for the incompatible condition (e. . Combinations of target and task-irrelevant stimuli. each trial started with a fixation cross that appeared for 800–1200 ms. This was calculated separately for the three load conditions by subtracting the RT in the compatible trials from the RT in the incompatible trials. and one high-load block). and locations were counterbalanced within each load condition.. consisting of three blocks of stimuli (one low-load.65. The experimental task was controlled by MATLAB using Psychophysics Toolbox extensions (Brainard. distractor letter N for target X). Participants were instructed to press the left arrow key if they saw X in the circle and to press the right arrow key if they saw N in the circle. N. This distractor letter was irrelevant to task completion but was the same as the target letter for the compatible condition (e. comprising one stimulus block. we administered a modified version of the perceptual load task employed by Maylor and Lavie (1998). three. 1994). 1997.30). Results revealed some items with low factor loadings for the empathic concern subscale. the coefficient omega for the empathic concern subscale improved to . Therefore. distractor letters. Each participant completed 12 practice trials. one medium-load.

For significant interactions in Step 2. The experiment lasted approximately 90 minutes. . For each participant. 2008). we analyzed the RT and accuracy data using analysis of variance with a 3 (load: high. the predictors (subscale scores on the LSRP and CE) were mean centered and entered simultaneously in Step 1 (main effect). medium. and incompatible) withinsubjects design. and participants were given a prepaid card valued at 500 yen as a reward for taking part. descriptive statistics and correlation were calculated for all indices in this study. in order to examine the association with psychopathy and empathy at different levels of CE. simple slopes tests were conducted at 1 SD above and below the mean CE for the medium-load condition. An interaction effect was entered in Step 2.8 Psychological Reports 0(0) Procedure The participants were recruited voluntarily from psychology classes at Hiroshima University by completing a brief address form. we used hierarchical regression analysis. Separate analyses were conducted for each subscale of the IRI (perspective taking and empathic concern) and LSRP (primary and secondary psychopathy). the participants were tested individually in a light diminished room and were seated in front of a monitor. we excluded all incorrect responses and RT that fell outside 3 SD from the individual participant’s mean. we used CE for the medium-load condition for analysis in this study. This analysis was performed to test our hypothesis that the CE at a medium level of perceptual load task will moderate the relationship between primary psychopathy and affective empathy: primary psychopathy will be negatively associated with affective empathy when CE at a medium level of perceptual load is low. 93) ¼ 5. This study was approved by the institutional review board at Hiroshima University Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences.r-project. neutral.05.63.1. 2p ¼ .06 (Sadeh & Verona. F(1. The nature and purpose of the study were explained and participants were asked to sign a written informed consent form prior to participation. The statistical procedures were performed with R 3. p < . Data analysis In order to confirm that our manipulation of the load conditions and combination of target and task-irrelevant stimuli worked as expected. Finally. In the analysis. As people who on scores highly on measure of psychopathy indicated that they experienced reduced interference from task-irrelevant stimuli during the perceptual load task in the medium-load condition.2 (http://www. In the experiment. They completed the perceptual load task before completing the questionnaires. and low)  3 (compatibility: compatible. After the manipulation check was complete. Accuracy data were calculated and we conducted arcsine transformation according to the procedure of Maylor and Lavie (1998).org/).

2p ¼ . F(2. we conducted a manipulation check of the perceptual load task. 9 Table 1.001). We used only RT data for the perceptual load task for the main analysis because previous studies have reported that there is a significant association between psychopathy and RT data for this task (Sadeh & Verona. p < . Follow-up analysis indicated significant RT differences between the neutral and incompatible conditions under high load (p < .30. and for accuracy. Accuracy was lower in the incompatible than compatible and neutral conditions (p < . p < . 2p ¼ . F(2.92 .17. 2p ¼ . but not for accuracy.001.21. .10.07) (. p < . 83) ¼ 100. Table 1 shows mean RT and accuracy by load and by compatibility with task-irrelevant stimuli.01.93 . p ¼ . the participants responded more slowly in the incompatible than the compatible and neutral conditions (p < .001).88 .42. which was consistent with Sadeh and Verona (2008).09. RT ¼reaction time.001) and in the neutral. 83) ¼ 8. In the present study.95 (.95 (.89 .01) and between the neutral and incompatible conditions and between the compatible and incompatible conditions under medium and low loads (ps < . 2p ¼ . CE was calculated using the compatible and incompatible conditions. 83) ¼ 25. F(4.and medium-load conditions (p < .001. there were no significant RT differences between the compatible and neutral conditions. as in previous studies (Sadeh & Verona.93 (.72. 2008). A main effect of compatibility was also found for RT. p < . 2p ¼ .01). 81) ¼ 3.08) Note. As expected.07) RT 746 (155) 706 (118) 711 (137) High Accuracy .07. Accuracy was lower in the high than the low.07) (.23.01. compared to compatible. neutral conditions were introduced in order to investigate whether compatible or incompatible conditions affected the RT differences. and for accuracy. 2008).94 . F(2.54. we concluded that our manipulation worked mostly as hypothesized. 83) ¼ 17.001).90 . Taken together.04. There was a main effect of load for RT.001). 2p ¼ . the participants responded more slowly as the perceptual load increased (p < . p < . Therefore. SD are presented in parentheses.12) (.001. F(2. F(4. The interaction between load and compatibility was also significant for RT. 81) ¼ 1. although there was no significant RT difference between compatible and neutral conditions. With regard to the manipulation check.001.11) (.08) (. Results First. Low RT Incompatible Neutral Compatible 661 (198) 612 (145) 612 (159) Medium Accuracy .87. As expected. Mean reaction time (in ms) and accuracy (proportion correct) by load and distractor compatibility for the perceptual load task.Tamura et al. condition (p < .07) RT 810 (158) 790 (141) 794 (164) Accuracy .13) (.

*p < . To test our hypothesis.27).01 32. Descriptive statistics and correlations among the study variables are presented in Tables 2 and 3. Table 3.08 0. LSRP total ¼ total scores on the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale.39*** — .10 Psychological Reports 0(0) Table 2.91 Note. 3. **p < .08 . Descriptive statistics among LSRP.89*** — .01. There were low to moderate negative correlations between the primary psychopathy subscale of the LSRP and the two subscales of the IRI (perspective taking: r ¼ . hierarchical regression analysis was performed.02 . IRI. LSRP total ¼ total scores on the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale. IRI ¼ Interpersonal Reactivity Index. CE ¼ compatibility effect. LSRP total Primary psychopathy Secondary psychopathy Perspective taking Empathic concern CE for high load CE for medium load CE for low load 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 — .11 6.19 . 1. 4.02 .05 8.05 .81 21.001.32** — .03 .47).03 .47*** — .71*** .85 3. CE ¼ compatibility effect. 7.15 .14 0.03 .08 0.84 12.25* . ***p < .06 .32 0. IRI ¼ Interpersonal Reactivity Index. empathic concern: r ¼ .22* . and CE by load condition.18 . The secondary psychopathy subscale of the LSRP negatively correlated with only the perspective taking subscale of the IRI (r ¼ .43*** .17 — . 5. and CE by load condition.25.49 0.09 .03 . Regression analysis revealed the significant .18 74 49 32 28 16 0.34* . LSRP total Primary psychopathy Secondary psychopathy Perspective taking Empathic concern CE for high load CE for medium load CE for low load M SD Min Max 54.01 3.19 0.22* .03 0.02 0.41*** .20 19. Descriptive statistics and correlations for the LSRP.11 33 19 10 13 9 0.71*** — Note. 8.68 0.05. A psychopathy subscale and CE for the medium load condition were entered in Step 1 and interaction between psychopathy subscale and CE for the medium load was entered in Step 2.05 .27* — . 2.40 1. IRI.64 0. 6.

Specifically. Given that the results of the current study revealed attentional modulation of primary psychopathy and affective empathy under medium perceptual load. which are potential distractors of cognitive processing.04. t ¼ .19. p ¼ .01).001) but not high (b ¼ . the increased variance explained in Step 2 was significant (Adj. SE ¼ . There was also no significant interaction predicting scores on the perspective taking subscale of the IRI (Tables 6 and 7).21.1 There was a significant negative association between primary psychopathy subscale scores and empathic concern subscale scores at low (b ¼ . which includes affective empathy.44. noncriminal people who scored higher on measures of primary psychopathy tended to have significantly lower scores for empathic concern when they showed reduced interference from taskirrelevant stimuli under a medium level of perceptual load. The interaction is depicted in Figure 1. As pointed out by a number of studies.08. The interaction of scores on the secondary psychopathy subscale and CE under a medium level of perceptual load on empathic concern subscale scores was not significant2 (Table 5). Although the relationship between primary psychopathy and interference from task-irrelevant stimuli under medium perceptual load did not strongly explain the variance in affective empathy in Step 1 (Adj. In order to further examine interaction term. apparently a medium level of perceptual demand is required for individual differences in attention characterized by psychopathy to emerge (Sadeh & Verona. p < . R2 ¼ . 11 interaction between primary psychopathy subscale scores and CE under a medium level of perceptual load on empathic concern subscale scores (Table 4). SE ¼ . this interaction effect was clear and supported our hypothesis regardless of the fact that we used a small. was moderated by attention. people who score highly on measures of psychopathy have difficulties with general emotional processing. p < . Discussion This study tested the attentional mechanism underlying the low levels of empathy observed in psychopathy. For example. as measured with a perceptual load task. interfered less with cognitive task performance in criminal people with high scores on PCL–R than those with low scores . 2014). emotional stimuli. R2 ¼ . Further.14). t ¼ 4.87.06. we conducted a simple slopes test. 2008). Our results showed that the relationship between primary psychopathy and empathic concern.Tamura et al. The findings reported herein might provide support for the notion that affective problems occur in people with high levels of psychopathy traits because of their reduced attention to task-irrelevant information. people exhibiting psychopathy who have a history of criminal offence showed disrupted neural processing of emotional facial expressions (ContrerasRodrı´ guez et al. R2 ¼ .05.39) levels of CE under medium perceptual load. using an undergraduate sample.. Further. nonclinical sample.

33  Step 1 1.20 . CE ¼ compatibility effect.41 SE . .66 (2.24 .08.20 95%CI 6.21 . .24 .93 7.96 3.13.91 2.16 .01.12 2.44.dfd) R2 Variable . ***p < . .00.20.53 .81)*** .04 95%CI .001.42 .40 (3. R2 SE F(dfn. **p < .15 1.70 .24  Step 2 2.07 B 2.54 .40 . Primary psychopathy CE for medium load Primary psychopathy  CE for medium load R2 Adj.08** .03 SE . . .25 4.82)*** .14 .10 Note. Hierarchical regression analysis predicting empathic concern by primary psychopathy and CE for medium load.40** t Table 4. .89 8.28 .28*** t .03 B .75** 2.48 .

. CE-Medium ¼ compatibility effect under medium perceptual load.03 Note.04 .21 .82) 2.18.36 medium load 1.71 .47 Secondary psychopathy  CE for medium load R2 . R2 .57 .38 . .08 . .21 1.90 .12 .dfd) 2. Interactive effects of primary psychopathy and CE-Medium on empathic concern.98 .63 2.43 . Table 5.30 psychopathy CE for 4.99 .26 .81) R2 .21 1. .04 .02 .05 .14.03 . Hierarchical regression analysis predicting empathic concern by secondary psychopathy and CE for medium load.77 . 13 Figure 1.04 SE .01.08 Adj.43 2. .67 2.10 (2.12.Tamura et al.72 .25 (3.05 . Step 1 Variable B SE  Step 2 t 95%CI B SE  t 95%CI Secondary .06. .05 .98 F(dfn. CE ¼ compatibility effect.

In keeping with response moderation theory.06 .25 1.22  . the authors considered that the disinhibition feature of impulsive-antisocial traits affects task performance. On the other hand. Step 1 Variable Primary psychopathy CE for medium load B  SE . However. The findings in this study also support those studies that suggested a link between psychopathy and emotional and cognitive processing.89 (3.22 .06 . .47.98 2. secondary psychopathy). R2 F(dfn.21.. (Mitchell..98 . and that it was not directly correlated with emotional distraction.04 . . *p < . thus. . In this way. .82) 1.05 .e.84 (2.05. attentional mechanisms may explain not only low fear but also reduced affective empathy in psychopathy.49 4. & Blair.13 .20 4. our result was interpreted not to be related to secondary psychopathy. Richell. Leonard.04 . . the attentional mechanism of low affective empathy in secondary psychopathy may be different from that in primary psychopathy. there was an important divergence between our study. However.10 . which is associated with executive function.23 .07 .dfd) 95%CI .38* . primary psychopathy) and low impulsive-antisocial traits (i. The perceptual load task measures more perceptual and spatial attention.76 R2 SE t . 2006).25 .14 . Maes and Brazil (2015) reported that noncriminal psychopathy was related to less interference of cognitive processing on emotional distraction in relation to the interaction between high affectiveinterpersonal traits (i.47.19* .00 Note. In this case.14 . CE ¼ compatibility effect. Hierarchical regression analysis predicting perspective taking by primary psychopathy and CE for medium load.81) R2 2.06 . although secondary psychopathy was also correlated with affective empathy. in which we examined the moderating effect by focusing on individual differences.25 .03 .01 Adj.35 .14 Psychological Reports 0(0) Table 6.00 Primary psychopathy  CE for medium load Step 2 t 95%CI B SE 2.02 .21.e.28.04 . .56 . the observed significant moderation effect in the current study was specific to primary psychopathy.

85 B . .69.83 B .15 Note.21 .82)*** .68.29 .001.00 .11  Step 1 4.08. . . .70*** .89 12. Secondary psychopathy CE for medium load Secondary psychopathy  CE for medium load 2 R Adj.23 .32 95%CI .81)*** .08  Step 2 4.21 . CE ¼ compatibility effect. .21 SE .48 .35 (3. Hierarchical regression analysis predicting perspective taking by secondary psychopathy and CE for medium load.49 .98*** 1.75 1. R2 SE F(dfn. .27 .43 4.34 SE .31 95%CI .08 .dfd) R2 Variable .89 8.14.42 3.64 t Table 7.30 .15 t .42 (2.09 4.73 .16.24 .09 4.45 . ***p < .

there would not have been a significant association between LSRP scores and CE under medium perceptual load because of the possibility that perceptual load is simply equivalent to dilution due to the presence of letters that are visually similar to the distractor. Sadeh and Verona (2008) reported those who on score highly on PPI–Callous–Unemotional. The factor structure of psychopathy is still under discussion.16 Psychological Reports 0(0) and previous studies. even though both studies used the same task and load conditions. in contrast to previous study findings.g. 2013) has reported that criminal offenders showed improved emotion recognition after training to encourage them to attend more to social stimuli. Sadeh & Verona. which was created by them in order to map the PPI to the PCL–R construct (see. Recent research (Scho¨nenberg et al.g. The second explanation concerns the perceptual load task... Lilienfeld & Andrews. our findings in the current study may support the possibility of training people with high scores on measures of psychopathy to improve their emotion recognition. In order to provide further evidence. as discussed by Benoni and Tsal (2010). Therefore. Therefore. The first concerns the use of the psychopathy scale.. such as facial expressions. This task may have been affected by manipulation of perceptual load conditions. 2012) that might result in no correlation being observed between primary psychopathy and CE under medium perceptual load. Schmitt. which prevents the precise interference from task-irrelevant stimuli. Another limitation of this study is the reliability of the Japanese version of the IRI.. 2008). it is necessary to use an experimental paradigm that assesses empathic abilities to understand the vicarious emotional expressions of others or affective responses by biological and neurocognitive indices during processing of task-irrelevant stimuli. There are several possible explanations for these contrasting results. which is difficult to assess by using self-report questionnaires.. Additionally. there might be differences in the construct (e.. However. Newman et al. The interactions observed herein predicted only scores on the empathic . Lilienfeld et al. there was no correlation between scores for psychopathy and CE under medium perceptual load. 1990). 2001. as few have used this perceptual load task to investigate psychopathy. Therefore. explorations of the links between emotional processing and cognitive processing in psychopathy may be able to be linked to such an intervention approach. which we used to assess interference from task-irrelevant stimuli. Brinkley. 1996). Thus. evidence from more studies is needed to supplement our present results. which followed response modulation theory to measure both fear and attention in one experiential paradigm (e. 2010). & Newman. in contrast to the result of Sadeh and Verona (2008). Smith. which is another popular self-reported measure of psychopathy that consists of 187 items and 8 subscales. although the PCL–R defines psychopathy as having two components (Hare et al. Sadeh and Verona (2008) used the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI. showed reduced interference from task-irrelevant stimuli at medium perceptual load.

Future studies should. conducting a factor analysis of the IRI and reporting satisfactory reliability (alpha ¼ . Finally. & Kondo. Newman et al. This limits the generalizability of our results in the present study. we cannot deny the possibility that our result regarding the moderation effect was caused by differences between criminal and noncriminal populations. therefore. Okamoto. undergraduate participants because psychopathy occurs on a continuum and has a dimensional construction. might be lower in people with high scores on psychopathy when they have reduced attentional focus on task-irrelevant stimuli. 2011).Tamura et al. 2011. 2010). Whereas cognitive empathy is thought to be modulated by higher order processing stages. in the current study. authorship. use executive function tasks because cognitive empathy includes complex processes involving the ability to make inferences regarding other people’s beliefs or emotions. and/or publication of this article. which is another limitation to use of the Japanese version of the IRI. . this study used a sample of noncriminal. we posit that this relationship might depend on individual executive function skills. the mechanism of low cognitive empathy in psychopathy remains unclear. These results suggest that affective empathy.76) after excluding the same three items with low factor loadings that we removed in the current study. Despite this. Previous studies applying the response modulation theory used samples of offenders (Baskin-Sommers et al. many other studies have also used noninstitutionalized samples.. Likewise. our results regarding the measure of empathic concern after excluding these items were reliable. another Japanese study supported the reliability of the empathic concern subscale of the Japanese version (Kono. However. as represented by concern and sympathy for another person. 17 concern subscale of the IRI. such as executive function. therefore. There is no consistent evidence for the relationship between psychopathy and cognitive empathy. 2013). Declaration of Conflicting Interests The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research. 2011). Additionally. it is difficult to make international comparisons with the revised four-item version.. affective empathy is thought to be modulated by lower order processing stages that involve more rapid and automatic processes. interaction effects tend not to be significant. To a certain extent. the measure of empathic concern did not show adequate reliability in the present study and. may be insufficient to appropriately measure the original concept. the significant results based on the current data imply even stronger interaction effects. such as perception (ShamayTsoory. therefore. thus. as low reliability can attenuate the strength of a correlation. therefore. An important future task is to replicate our results with samples that are both larger and drawn from criminal populations. There is abundant evidence to support the idea that the two aspects of empathy are dissociable and different neural processes have been implicated (Shamay-Tsoory. However.

primary psychopathy.1016/j. T.10.49 (see Table 2). rather than also applying to secondary psychopathy. t ¼ 1. I. F.: 13J40120). The significance of the moderator (centered CE under medium load) ranges from 0.03. doi:10. which indicates that the simple slope outside this range is statistically significant. and CE for the medium load were entered in Step 1. 22.14 to 0.paid. SE ¼ . We also examined the confidence bands to confirm the CE values under medium load. P. t ¼ 2.1016/j.20. a significant association between primary psychopathy and empathic concern emerged for both relatively high and low centered CE under medium load.1177/0956797610396227 . secondary psychopathy. (2010).70. and/or publication of this article: This study was supported by a JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C) to the second author (No. References Ali. Washington. 95%CI ¼ . & Newman.  ¼ . p < . we entered the two interactions between primary psychopathy and CE for the medium load and between secondary psychopathy and CE for the medium load. Baskin-Sommers. (2009). J. J. Curtin.06.01. for which the simple slope is statistically significant.53.027 American Psychiatric Association. .70.2009. Psychological Science. SE ¼ .18 Psychological Reports 0(0) Funding The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research. 2. This is consistent with the separate hierarchical regression analysis results shown in Tables 3 and 4. DC: American Psychiatric Association. the interaction effect of primary psychopathy with CE for the medium load on empathic concern still emerged after controlling for secondary psychopathy. Given that centered CE under medium load ranged from 0. Specifically. Investigating theory of mind deficits in nonclinical psychopathy and machiavellianism.01 to 0. 758–762. Then.). & Chamorro-Premuzic. doi:10.016 Ali.. T. S.20. 169–174. A. J.12. but the latter did not (B ¼ .01) and the former interaction remained significant (B ¼ 1. Additionally. Notes 1.00. doi:10. although repeated regression analysis increased the likelihood of Type I error occurring.  ¼ . authorship... but positively significant when CE under medium load was greater than 0.paid. 47. & Chamorro-Premuzic. the association between primary psychopathy and empathic concern was negatively significant when centered CE under medium load was lower than 0.12. F. (1994). 49. Personality and Individual Differences. 95%CI ¼ . R.. Specifying the attentional selection that moderates the fearlessness of psychopathic offenders.2010. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed. in Step 2. Therefore. (2011).44. Amorim. Empathy deficits and trait emotional intelligence in psychopathy and Machiavellianism. 226–234. The supplemental regression analysis was completed in order to confirm that the significant interaction effect shown in Figure 1 was unique to primary psychopathy.71. .39.. use of simultaneous analysis might reduce the chance that the emerged interaction of the separate analyses was caused by this type of error. An additional significant amount of the variance was explained in Step 2 (R2 ¼ .68).09. Personality and Individual Differences.36).: 26380929) and a JSPS Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Fellows to the third author (No. In this analysis.

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Hiroshima University. Taxometric analysis of the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale. Yoshinori Sugiura is an associate professor at Hiroshima University. Magaletta. . doi:10. D. Jun Moriya is an associate professor at Kansai University.. & Diamond. 554–563. (2009). doi:10. 90. The current research interest includes metacognitive approach to emotional disorders and measurement of cognitive control skills. E. Neuropsychology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. D. doi:10.301 Walters. P. Her principal research interest is antisocial personality such as psychopathy and Dark Triad. J. 348–355. He was a recipient of Kido Research Prize from Japanese Association for Educational Psychology in 2000. 21. Hiatt. 2014).21. J. mindfulness. The focus of his work is on cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety disorder. R. The focus of his work is on interactive effects between visual attention and working memory on social anxiety. (2007). M. She is Research Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. J. Maxwell.. Brinkley. Journal of Personality Assessment. 491–498. Research. 301–312. K. P. A. S. doi:10. A. 5.22 Psychological Reports 0(0) Vitale. & Newman. & Newman. The latent structure of psychopathy in male adjudicated delinquents: A cross-domain taxometric analysis. G. D. D. C. G... Her representative book is ‘Cognitive Control of Emotional Distress’ (Tokyo: Kazama Shobo. P. Attention moderates the processing of inhibitory information in primary psychopathy. and psychopathy and publishes many articles related to these themes. (2014). J.. C. and Treatment. She won Naruse Jollzo Memorial Prize in 2003 from Japan Woman’s University.1080/00223890802248828 Walters. P.3.1037/a0016480 Author Biographies Ayame Tamura is a PhD student in the Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences. Tomoko Sugiura was fellow of the Japan Society tor the Promotion of Science. Abnormal selective attention in psychopathic female offenders. Personality Disorders: Theory. J..1037/0894-4105.. Brinkley. (2008)..1037/per0000088 Zeier. 118.