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Quantitative Head Dynamics Associated with Interpersonal (Grandiose-Manipulative) Psychopathic Traits in Incarcerated Youth

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Clinicians have long noted that individuals with elevated psychopathic traits can be characterized by unique interpersonal styles, including prolonged eye contact, invasion of interpersonal space, and frequent use of hand gestures. Such forms of nonverbal communication can be measured via hand, body, and head position and dynamics. Previous studies have developed an automated algorithm designed to capture head position and dynamics from digital recordings of clinical interviews in a sample of incarcerated adult men. We observed that higher psychopathy scores were associated with stationary head dwell time. Here, we applied a similar automated algorithm to assess head position and dynamics on videotaped clinical interviews assessing psychopathic traits from n = 242 youth housed at a maximum-security juvenile correctional facility. We observed that higher psychopathy scores (assessed via the Hare Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version [PCL:YV]) were associated with unique patterns of head dynamics. Specifically, PCL:YV Total, Factor 1 (measuring grandiose-manipulative and callous-unemotional traits), and Facet 1 (measuring grandiose-manipulative traits) scores were associated with a higher proportion of time spent in a head dynamics pattern consisting of moderate movement away from the average head position. This study lays the groundwork for future investigations to apply quantitative methods to better understand patterns of nonverbal communication styles in clinical populations characterized by severe antisocial behavior.

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  1. Participants’ self-reported race and ethnicity were not significantly associated with any of the three dwell times (See Supplemental Material for additional information).

  2. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), defined using the Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (K-SADS; Kauffman et al., 1997) criteria, was also investigated as a potential covariate but ultimately not included. See Supplemental Material for additional information.

  3. Spearman’s rho correlation analyses were performed rather than Pearson product-moment correlations, as the dwell times investigated in the current study were often characterized by high skewness values (e.g., τ1 skew = 1.12 and τ3 skew = -1.21).


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This study was funded by an award from the Bently Foundation (PI: Kiehl), National Institutes of Mental Health through grant number R01 MH071896 (PI: Kiehl), and National Institutes of Child Health and Development (NICHD; R01HD082257 and R01HD092331; PI Kiehl).

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Authors and Affiliations



Samantha Rodriguez: Formal Analysis, Conceptualization, Writing - original draft; Aparna Gullapalli: Software, Conceptualization, Methodology, Writing - review and editing; J Michael Maurer: Writing - original draft; Palmer Tirrell: Writing - review and editing; Ugesh Egala: Software, Methodology; Nathaniel Anderson: Writing - review and editing; Carla Harenski: Data Curation, Resources, Writing - review and editing; Kent Kiehl: Conceptualization, Project Administration, Supervision, Writing - review and editing, Funding Acquisition.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Samantha N. Rodriguez.

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Ethics 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.

Consent to Participate

Informed consent was obtained for all participants included in this study who were 18 years or older at the time of data collection. Informed consent was obtained from legal guardians and assent was obtained from participants who were under the age of 18 at the time of data collection.

Conflict of Interest

Samantha N. Rodriguez, Aparna R. Gullapalli, J. Michael Maurer, Palmer S. Tirrell, Ugesh Egala, Nathaniel E. Anderson, Carla L. Harenski, and Kent A. Kiehl report no potential conflicts of interest.

Experiment Participants

The procedures in this study were approved by the Ethical and Independent Review Services and the Office for Human Research Protections. The researchers complied with ethical standards for all participants. 

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Rodriguez, S.N., Gullapalli, A.R., Maurer, J.M. et al. Quantitative Head Dynamics Associated with Interpersonal (Grandiose-Manipulative) Psychopathic Traits in Incarcerated Youth. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 44, 1054–1063 (2022).

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