Psychopathic personality and utilitarian moral judgment in college students

Journal of Criminal Justice 41:342–349 (2013)

Purpose: Although psychopathy is characterized by amoral behavior, literature on the association between psychopathy and moral judgment pattern is mixed. Recent evidence suggests that this may be due to the moderation effect of anxiety (Koenigs, Kruepke, Zeier, & Newman, 2011). The current study aims to examine the psychopathy-utilitarian judgment association in college students. Method: In this study, a group of 302 college students completed a moral judgment test involving hypothetical dilemmas. Their psychopathic traits were assessed by the Psychopathic Personality Inventory – Short Form (PPI-SF) (Lilienfeld & Andrews, 1996). Results: Individuals with higher psychopathic traits were more likely to make utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas. Furthermore, the association between utilitarian responses and psychopathy was more salient for the behavioral factor of psychopathy (PPI-II), and this association was mediated by self-reported aggression. However, the moderating effect of anxiety was not found. Conclusions: These results build upon work on utilitarian moral judgment in psychopathic individuals in a non-incarcerated, non-institutionalized sample, and have important implications for the behavioral correc- tion system.
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