Scientific article
Open access

Empathy and altruistic behavior in antisocial violent offenders with psychopathic traits

Published inPsychiatry Research, vol. 269, p. 625-632
Publication date2018

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.

Research group
Citation (ISO format)
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
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0165-1781

Technical informations

Creation09/26/2018 12:12:00 PM
First validation09/26/2018 12:12:00 PM
Update time03/15/2023 8:47:33 AM
Status update03/15/2023 8:47:33 AM
Last indexation01/17/2024 3:48:15 AM
All rights reserved by Archive ouverte UNIGE and the University of GenevaunigeBlack