Date of Award

Summer 8-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor

Jillian Grose-Fifer

Second Reader

Diana Falkenbach

Third Advisor

Rebecca Weiss


Psychopathy is notable for traits of impulsivity, irresponsibility, and proneness to boredom, characteristics that are all substrates of executive function. However, event-related potential (ERP) P3 studies of attention-related abnormalities in the context of psychopathic traits have yielded inconsistent results (Gao & Raine, 2009). The current study attempted to address these discrepancies by investigating the effects of psychopathic traits on P3s during two attentional tasks. Two groups of ERP participants (n = 28) who had high (T score greater than or equal to 50) or low (T score less than or equal to 40) Psychopathic Personality Inventory – Revised (PPI-R; Lilienfeld & Widows, 2005) total scores were recruited from a larger sample (n = 181) of undergraduate students. ERP participants completed a standard oddball (SDO) task and a continuous performance task (CPT) during which they responded to target stimuli while their EEG was recorded. Contrary to my hypotheses, individuals with high PPI-R total scores performed significantly less accurately on both tasks compared to those with low PPI-R total scores, yet, total PPI-R scores were not related to P3 amplitude. High TriPM Disinhibition scores were associated with decreased P3 amplitudes during the complex CPT task, but not the simple SDO task. My results suggest that impulsive-externalizing traits that are often a hallmark of psychopathy, are associated with an attentional deficiency.



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