Description: The accurate assessment of psychopathy constitutes a critical component of forensic assessments addressing offender populations. Among the core characteristics of psychopathy, the interpersonal component of deception and empathic deficits are prominently observed in offenders with psychopathic traits. Given the negative consequences of being classified as a psychopath, offenders may be likely to minimize their psychopathic traits. In particular, no research has investigated whether offenders with psychopathic traits are able to simulate empathy in an effort to mask their cognitive or affective empathy deficits (e.g., lack of remorse about offenses). The present study aims to contribute to the literature with regard to the simulation of empathy. Using a mixed between- and within-subjects design, 81 male detainees were placed into (a) a low psychopathy group, (b) a moderate psychopathy group, or (c) a high psychopathy group based on the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised. For the within-subjects component, all offenders answered empathy questionnaires under genuine and simulation conditions. Results indicate the sample possessed cognitive empathy, but did not display affective empathy under genuine instructions. Under simulation instructions, participants significantly increased their scores on several empathy measures. The implications of simulated empathy and comparisons between groups regarding simulation abilities are discussed.
Date: August 2013
Creator: Robinson, Emily V.