Primary psychopathy and emotion suppression: Effects on the experience of empathy and distressful affect
Lander, Gwendoline C.
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The current dissertation provides a deeper understanding of the experience of empathy and distressful affect in primary psychopathy in an undergraduate population. Primary psychopathy refers to a subtype of psychopathy characteristic of interpersonal traits (grandiose, glib, deceitful) and affective deficiencies (callous, cold, fearless, lack of remorse, emotionally detached). Previous research has demonstrated a lack of the experience of empathy and of distressful emotions in primary psychopathy. On the other hand, the research has not indicated negative relations in emotion recognition, understanding, and perception. Primary psychopathic tendencies did, however, relate to a unique deficit in processing sad emotions. The research has yet to explain the presence of emotion perception but lack of experience of distressful emotion or empathy in this population. The current study thus sought to provide insight into the lack of experiencing negative emotions in primary psychopathy by exploring the effect of emotion suppression on diminishing experiential affect. The study examined the direct relation between primary psychopathy and both empathy and distressful affect, in addition to the role of emotion suppression in the relation between these constructs. Analyses were also run with male and female samples separately to explore potential gender differences in primary psychopathy. The findings demonstrated a negative relation between primary psychopathy and both cognitive and affective empathy, and no relation between primary psychopathy and distressful affect in male and female samples. Emotion suppression proved to moderate the relationship between primary psychopathy and affective empathy in male and female samples. Emotion suppression also moderated the relationship between primary psychopathy and distressful affect, but only the female sample.