Objective: We examined Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST; Gray, 1982) constructs (behavioral inhibition [BIS], behavioral activation [BAS]) as moderators of reported relationships between psychopathy, depression, and executive function. Secondarily, we sought to refine research on executive dysfunction among individuals with psychopathic characteristics by accounting for primary versus secondary psychopathy vis-à-vis BIS/BAS differences. While opposite patterns of performance on left- versus right-hemisphere–based neuropsychological tasks among depressed (low BAS) and psychopathic individuals have been reported (Hecht, 2010, 2011), the literature is uneven, perhaps because most previous studies didn't differentiate primary (low BIS) from secondary (high BAS) psychopathy. Method: Undergraduate psychology students (n = 186) completed several self-report questionnaires of RST variables (BIS/BAS Scales), psychopathy (Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy), and depressive characteristics (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression-Revised), after which they completed emotional Stroop and CANTAB affective go/no-go (AGN) tasks. Results: Depression predicted more interference on the negative (but not on the positive) Stroop card (p = .01; β = .11). Primary (but not secondary) psychopathy predicted less Stroop interference (p< .053; β = −.09). Secondary (but not primary) psychopathy predicted more commission errors on the AGN (p = .031; β = .16). The RST constructs failed to explain any of these relationships. Conclusion: Relatively few studies have distinguished between primary and secondary psychopathy while investigating neuropsychological test performance. The findings of the present study suggest the importance of making this distinction in order to avoid “watering down” key findings. While RST variables didn't explain neuropsychological performance as hypothesized, this could be because the BIS/BAS Scales are arguably outdated and should therefore be thoroughly revised to properly assess the three motivational systems encompassed in current RST.
Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory and Emotional Neuropsychological Test Performance in Psychopathy and Depression
S Riffel, E Fields, B Pace, J Tapio, D Abwender; C-25
Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory and Emotional Neuropsychological Test Performance in Psychopathy and Depression. Arch Clin Neuropsychol 2015; 30 (6): 572. doi: 10.1093/arclin/acv047.227
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