Are Psychopaths Immune to Horror?

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One way to study emotion in the psychological world is through the use of the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). In this study, the experimenter shows a series of pictures to participants. The participants are observed based on their Fear Potentiated Startle, which is a measure of how much fear a certain picture evokes. Participants are shown three types of pictures: pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant. For most people, the pleasant pictures evoke pleasure, not fear. The neutral pictures don't really produce either response. As expected, the unpleasant pictures evoke fear in participants. The interesting part; how psychopathic people react to the IAPS test?

This is a graph of the responses. The top shows psychopathic responses and the bottom shows the non-psychopathic people. psychopaths.png

I think this is an interesting concept because if the affect the pictures have on psychopaths. Psychopaths produce the same responses for the pleasant and unpleasant images as other people. The difference is in the unpleasant pictures. Not only do psychopaths produce no fear when they see disturbing images, they feel pleasure. People in pain are pleasurable to psychopaths, which is probably why they put themselves in those types of situations. They get pleasure from other people suffering and from dangerous situations that are scary to most people.

I have always wondered how somebody could actually kill another human being. How does your conscience not kick in and make you realize what you are about to do? Whenever I see any type of torture of another person I think about this. The answer is simple; it makes them happy. In some sick twisted way, their brains send signals of joy and good feelings when they see horrible stimuli. Maybe some day we will be able to find a way to correct this problem and make the emotions of psychopaths the way they are supposed to be.

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Where did you get this information (cite/link)? Did the psychopaths show pleasure? Can that really be measured from fear responses to pictures?

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This page contains a single entry by brand913 published on November 4, 2011 3:59 PM.

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