Emotional capture by fearful expressions varies with psychopathic traits

Saz Ahmed, Sara Hodsoll, Polly Dalton, Catherine Sebastian

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Task-irrelevant emotional expressions are known to capture attention, with the extent of “emotional capture” varying with psychopathic traits in antisocial samples. We investigated whether this variation extends throughout the continuum of psychopathic traits (and co-occurring trait anxiety) in a community sample. Participants (N = 85) searched for a target face among facial distractors. As predicted, angry and fearful faces interfered with search, indicated by slower reaction times relative to neutral faces. When fear appeared as either target or distractor, diminished emotional capture was seen with increasing affective-interpersonal psychopathic traits. However, moderation analyses revealed that this was only when lifestyle-antisocial psychopathic traits were low, consistent with evidence suggesting that these two facets of psychopathic traits display opposing relationships with emotional reactivity. Anxiety did not show the predicted relationships with emotional capture effects. Findings show that normative variation in high-level individual differences in psychopathic traits influence automatic bias to emotional stimuli.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-214
Number of pages8
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number1
Early online date20 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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