Psychopathic traits and self-conscious emotions: What is the role of perspective taking ability?

  • Tiziana LancianoEmail author
  • Antonietta Curci


While it is well established that individuals with psychopathic traits have a marked deficit in affectivity and empathy, the extent to which empathic perspective taking can play a role in psychopathic traits and self-conscious emotions has yet to be studied in detail. Using a community sample (N = 736), the current study investigated the relationship between psychopathic traits, moral-based emotions, and empathic perspective taking ability, by exploring the effect of perspective taking in moderating the link between psychopathic traits and self-conscious emotions. Results revealed that the three components of psychopathy – self-centered impulsivity, fearless dominance, and coldheartedness – yielded different relations with empathic perspective taking and self-conscious emotions. Moreover, perspective taking ability moderated above all the relationship between psychopathic traits (impulsivity and fearless dominance) and guilt, shame and detachment. Summarising, our findings suggest that if psychopathic traits are related to an overall deficit in self-conscious emotions and perspective taking, then promoting perspective taking ability might lead to an enhancement of pro-social moral self-conscious emotions.


Psychopathy Self-conscious emotions Perspective taking Cognitive empathy Shame Guilt 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the help of Gino Martorelli and ipralab for their collaboration in collecting the data.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Tiziana Lanciano declares that she has no conflict of interest. Antonietta Curci declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

12144_2019_162_MOESM1_ESM.xls (1.1 mb)
ESM 1 (XLS 1.11 MB)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Education, Psychology, CommunicationUniversity of Bari Aldo MoroBariItaly

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