Emotion attributions in the psychopath

R. J.R. Blair, C. Sellars, I. Strickland, F. Clark, A. O. Williams, M. Smith, L. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


This study investigates the ability of psychopaths and non-psychopathic, incarcerated controls to attribute emotions to others. Twenty-five psychopaths and 25 controls, identified using the Revised Psychopathy Checklist [PCL-R: Hare (The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, 1991)], were presented with short vignettes of happiness, sadness, embarrassment and guilt inducing contexts. They were asked to attribute emotions to the story protagonist. The psychopaths and controls did not differ in their emotion attributions to protagonists in the happiness, sadness and embarrassment stories. However, the psychopaths and controls did differ in their emotion attributions to the guilt stories. The dominant attribution of the controls to the story protagonist was, as expected, guilt. In contrast, the dominant attribution of the psychopaths to the story protagonist was happiness or indifference. The results are interpreted within the Violence Inhibition Mechanism model of the development of the psychopath (Blair, Cognition, in press).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-437
Number of pages7
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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