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Empathy and altruistic behavior in antisocial violent offenders with psychopathic traits

Mayer, Sarah V
Jusyte, Aiste
Schönenberg, Michael
Published in Psychiatry Research. 2018, vol. 269, p. 625-632
Abstract Deficiencies in empathic functioning are considered a core characteristic of violent behavior. Enhancing empathy in aggressive populations may thus represent a promising intervention target. Hence, the aims of the present work were two-fold: First, we wanted to thoroughly assess empathic competencies and second, we aimed to investigate effects of an empathy induction on experienced empathy levels and prosocial behavior in a sample of violent offenders relative to matched controls. Empathy was assessed using both self-report as well as objective measures. For the empathy induction, participants were presented with empathy inducing and control videos. To assess the effects of the empathy induction on behavior, participants played a dictator game indicative of prosocial behavior after every video. Violent offenders showed no systematic impairment in empathy measures. Despite lower shares in the dictator game across conditions, the empathy induction led to a substantial increase in prosocial behavior in both groups. Importantly, high psychopathy scores were distinctively associated with lower self-reported empathy levels, an attenuated affective responsiveness to the empathy induction, and less altruistic behavior. Treatment programs aiming to improve empathy should take individual characteristics into account and may be applied to distinctive subgroups rather than to violent offenders per se.
PMID: 30208352
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Article (Published version) (474 Kb) - public document Free access
Research group Affective sciences
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MAYER, Sarah V et al. Empathy and altruistic behavior in antisocial violent offenders with psychopathic traits. In: Psychiatry Research, 2018, vol. 269, p. 625-632. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2018.08.035 https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:109308

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Deposited on : 2018-10-17

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