A comparison of primary and secondary psychopathy in the prediction of explicit and implicit measures of empathy

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Clinical Psychology


Department of Psychology


Advisor: Catherine Lutz Zois


A lack of empathy is considered a key component in the construct of psychopathy (Cleckley, 1964). This study examined the moderating effects of gender on the psychopathy-empathy relationship. Previous studies investigating gender as a moderator have largely relied on self-report measures of empathy, which can be affected by social desirability. This study aimed to examine moderation using both explicit and implicit measures of empathy. Participants (N= 173) completed two measures of psychopathy, implicit and explicit empathy measures, as well as a social desirability measure and a measure of anxiety. While no significant Gender x Secondary Psychopathy interaction was found in regards to explicit empathy, women did score higher than men in explicit empathy overall. Furthermore, the results indicated that individuals with primary psychopathy did not score significantly lower on measures of explicit empathy or implicit empathy in comparison to their non-psychopathic counterparts. The results also indicated that individuals with secondary psychopathy scored significantly lower than their primary psychopathic and non-psychopathic counterparts in both explicit and implicit empathy which suggests that these individuals lack empathy as previous researchers have found (Mullins-Nelson, Salekin, & Leistico, 2006; Vidal, Skeem, & Camp, 2010).


Psychopaths Sex differences, Empathy Sex differences, Psychology, Pathological Social aspects, Clinical psychology; primary psychopathy; secondary psychopathy; empathy; psychopathy; implicit; explicit; gender

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Copyright © 2013, author