, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 461-470

Deficient Behavioral Inhibition and Anomalous Selective Attention in a Community Sample of Adolescents with Psychopathic Traits and Low-Anxiety Traits

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Abstract

Socialization is the important process by which individuals learn and then effectively apply the rules of appropriate societal behavior. Response modulation is a psychobiological process theorized to aid in socialization by allowing individuals to utilize contextual information to modify ongoing behavior appropriately. Using Hare’s (1991) Psychopathy Checklist and the Welsh (1956) anxiety scale, researchers have identified a relatively specific form of a response modulation deficit in low-anxious, Caucasian psychopaths. Preliminary evidence suggests that the Antisocial Process Screening Device (APSD; Frick & Hare, 2001) may be used to identify children with a similar vulnerability. Using a representative community sample of 308 16-year-olds from the Child Development Project (Dodge, Bates, & Pettit, 1990), we tested and corroborated the hypotheses that participants with relatively low anxiety and high APSD scores would display poorer passive avoidance learning and less interference on a spatially separated, picture-word Stroop task than controls. Consistent with hypotheses, the expected group differences in picture-word Stroop interference were found with male and female participants, whereas predicted differences in passive avoidance were specific to male participants. To the extent that response modulation deficits contributing to poor socialization among psychopathic adult offenders also characterize a subgroup of adolescents with mild conduct problems, clarification of the developmental processes that moderate the expression of this vulnerability could inform early interventions.