Emotion processing in Psychopathy Checklist - assessed psychopathy: A review of the literature

Michael Brook*, Chelsea L. Brieman, David S. Kosson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Deficient emotional experience is recognized as one of the central features of psychopathy and an impressive body of empirical findings regarding emotion processing in psychopathy has amassed over the past several decades, resulting in two broad theoretical perspectives. The general emotional deficit perspective postulates a globally reduced capacity for emotional experience and processing across the emotional spectrum. In contrast, according to the specific emotional deficit perspective, psychopathy is associated with abnormal experience of only specific types of emotion; several distinct hypotheses have been proposed under this latter perspective. We systematically and critically review findings from peer-reviewed research of emotion processing in psychopathy in relation to the two theoretical perspectives. In general, findings suggest that, compared to controls, psychopaths exhibit behavioral, psychophysiologic, and regional brain activation anomalies when processing emotion, but their ratings of self-arousal and stimulus valence/intensity do not differ from controls. However, when behavioral findings are examined separately by emotion type, the overall pattern of findings is not clearly consistent with any of the dominant theoretical perspectives of emotion processing in psychopathy. We summarize the current state of the field, including consistencies and inconsistencies in the literature, offer alternative explanations for the findings, and outline directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)979-995
Number of pages17
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Antisocial behavior
  • Emotion
  • Psychopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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