Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
L. Thomas Kucharski
Using an undergraduate sample, the present study examined how psychopathic traits (assessed by the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised) and empathic concern (assessed by the Interpersonal Reactivity Index) affect emotional-information processing using event-related potentials (ERPs) and a sentential priming paradigm. Participants had their electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded while they silently read sentences with three types of endings: congruent, incongruent, and emotionally negative. We hypothesized that participants with high levels of psychopathic traits and participants with low levels of empathic concern would find the emotionally negative sentence endings less unexpected and disturbing (yielding a smaller N400), compared to participants with low levels of psychopathic traits and participants with high levels of empathic concern. Although results indicated no significant difference in N400 amplitude between the high and low PPI-R groups across sentence types, there were significant differences between the high and low Empathic Concern (EC) groups. Both EC groups showed the typical semantic priming effect (smaller N400s for congruent compared to incongruent sentence endings); however, for the high EC group, the emotionally negative sentence endings elicited large N400s, similar in amplitude to the N400s elicited by the incongruent endings. In contrast, for the low EC group, the emotionally negative sentence endings elicited small N400s, similar in amplitude to the N400s elicited by the congruent endings. Given that the N400 is believed to index the difficulty with which a word is retrieved from semantic memory, our data suggests that individuals low in empathic concern for others did not find the emotionally negative sentences particularly disturbing.
Larson, Farren, "Psychopathy, Empathic Concern, and Emotional-Sentence Processing: An N400 ERP Study" (2017). CUNY Academic Works.