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      Psychopathy and the ability to read the “language of the eyes”: Divergence in the psychopathy construct

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          The capacity to interpret others people's behavior and mental states is a vital part of human social communication. This ability, also called mentalizing or Theory of Mind (ToM), may also serve as a protective factor against aggression and antisocial behavior. This study investigates the relationship between two measures of psychopathy (clinical assessment and self-report) and the ability to identify mental states from photographs of the eye region. The participants in the study were 92 male inmates at Bergen prison, Norway. The results showed some discrepancy in connection to assessment methodology. For the self-report (SRP-III), we found an overall negative association between mental state discrimination and psychopathy, while for the clinical instrument (PCL-R) the results were more mixed. For Factor 1 psychopathic traits (interpersonal and affective), we found positive associations with discrimination of neutral mental states, but not with the positive or negative mental states. Factor 2 traits (antisocial lifestyle) were found to be negatively associated with discrimination of mental states. The results from this study demonstrate a heterogeneity in the psychopathic construct where psychopathic traits related to an antisocial and impulsive lifestyle are associated with lower ability to recognize others' mental states, while interpersonal and affective psychopathic traits are associated with a somewhat enhanced ability to recognize others' emotional states.

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          Most cited references 69

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          Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach.

           Mark Davis (1983)
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            The Empathy Quotient: An Investigation of Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, and Normal Sex Differences

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              The "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" Test revised version: a study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism.

              In 1997 in this Journal we published the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" Test, as a measure of adult "mentalising". Whilst that test succeeded in discriminating a group of adults with Asperger syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA) from controls, it suffered from several psychometric problems. In this paper these limitations are rectified by revising the test. The Revised Eyes Test was administered to a group of adults with AS or HFA (N = 15) and again discriminated these from a large number of normal controls (N = 239) drawn from different samples. In both the clinical and control groups the Eyes Test was inversely correlated with the Autism Spectrum Quotient (the AQ), a measure of autistic traits in adults of normal intelligence. The Revised Eyes Test has improved power to detect subtle individual differences in social sensitivity.

                Author and article information

                Scand J Psychol
                Scand J Psychol
                Scandinavian Journal of Psychology
                BlackWell Publishing Ltd (Oxford, UK )
                December 2014
                20 June 2014
                : 55
                : 6
                : 585-592
                [1 ]Faculty of Psychology, Dept. of Psychosocial Sciences, University of Bergen Chrities gate 12, 5015, Bergen, Norway
                [2 ]Centre for Research and Education in Forensic Psychiatry, Haukeland University Hospital Sandviksleitet 1, 5021, Bergen, Norway
                Author notes
                Asle M. Sandvik, Department of Psychosocial Science, University of Bergen, Christies gate 12, N-5015, Bergen, Norway. Tel: +47 55 58 89 04; fax: +47 55 58 98 79; e-mail:
                Sandvik, A. M., Hansen, A. L., Johnsen, B. H. & Laberg, J. C. (2014). Psychopathy and the ability to read the “language of the eyes“: Divergence in the psychopathy construct. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 55, 585–592.
                © 2014 The Authors. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology published by Scandinavian Psychological Associations and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

                This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

                Personality and Social Psychology


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