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Due to inconsistent findings in the literature regarding the relationship between psychopathy and empathy, this study uses a between-subjects design to examine the relationship between the constructs of psychopathy and victim empathy in 120 jail inmates. Specifically, this study seeks to identify whether primary and secondary psychopathy subtypes experience empathy for victims of their own gender (i.e., gender-matched) or for victims of the opposite gender (i.e., gender-nonmatched) differently. Thus, various types of empathy measures are used. To assess implicit affective victim empathy, participants are randomly assigned to one of two conditions, wherein they listen to a voice recording of either a male or female victim describing a physically violent attack. While listening to the recording, participants wear a heart rate monitor and measurements are taken to determine if participants experience a change in heart rate in response to the empathy provoking stimuli. To assess explicit victim empathy, both affective and cognitive, participants complete self-report questionnaires regarding how they felt while listening to the recording and how they believe the victim felt, respectively. Participants also complete self-report measures that assess for psychopathy, along with its primary and secondary variants, general empathy, and trait anxiety. It is hypothesized that secondary psychopathy will be positively related to implicit and explicit measures of victim empathy for gender-matched victims, yet will be negatively related to implicit and explicit measures of victim empathy for gender-nonmatched victims, as well as the measure of general empathy. Additionally, it is hypothesized that primary psychopathy will be negatively related to implicit measures of affective victim empathy and positively related to explicit measures of both victim and general empathy, regardless of the victim’s gender in relation to their own.

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Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Catherine Lutz Zois

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium poster

Distinctions Between Primary and Secondary Psychopathy: Gender-Match as a Facilitator of Victim Empathy?