The relationship of primary and secondary psychopathy to different types of empathetic deficits

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology, Clinical


Department of Psychology


Advisor: Catherine Lutz Zois


The present study examined the relationship between the constructs of psychopathy and empathy in 180 undergraduate students. This study addressed discrepancies in previous research concerning these constructs (Blair, Jones, Clark, & Smith, 1997; Lishner, 2012). Assessing different types of psychopathy and empathy did this, as participants completed measures of primary and secondary psychopathy, implicit and explicit cognitive and affective empathy, social desirability, and anxiety. Analyses did not support the part of Hypothesis 1, stating that primary psychopathy would be positively related to explicit cognitive empathy, as a negative association was found. However, as hypothesized, primary psychopathy was unrelated to implicit cognitive empathy. Further mixed results were yielded for Hypothesis 2, that secondary psychopathy would be negatively related to both implicit and explicit cognitive empathy, as a significant negative interaction was found only for secondary psychopathy and implicit cognitive empathy. Finally, when looking at the use of implicit affective physiological measurements, the current study found secondary psychopathy to be significantly negatively related to implicit affective empathy while there was no relation between primary psychopathy and implicit affective empathy. Limitations, directions, and implications for future research of these mixed results are discussed.


Psychopaths Research, Empathy Research, Scientific surveys, Psychology, Personality, primary psychopathy, secondary psychopathy, implicit empathy, affective empathy, empathy

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Copyright © 2015, author