Delineating Psychopathy from Cognitive Empathy: The Case of Psychopathic Personality Traits Scale

Abstract
There is an ongoing debate regarding the content of psychopathy, especially about the status of antisocial behavior and disinhibition characteristics as core psychopathy features. Psychopathic Personality Traits Scale (PPTS) represents a novel model of psychopathy based on core psychopathy markers such as Interpersonal manipulation, Egocentricity and Affective responsiveness. However, this model presupposes another narrow trait of psychopathy: cognitive responsiveness, which represents a lack of cognitive empathy. Since previous models of psychopathy do not depict this feature as a core psychopathy trait, the goal of this study was to empirically evaluate if the lack of cognitive empathy is a narrow psychopathy trait or its correlate. The research was conducted on a community sample via online study (N=342; Mage=23.7 years; 31% males). Results showed that the correlations between Cognitive responsiveness and other psychopathy features were significantly lower than intercorrelations of other three traits. Factor analysis, conducted on PPTS items, provided a two-factor solution, where Cognitive responsiveness was yielded as a factor separate from other psychopathy indicators. Finally, the exploration of the shared latent space of psychopathy and cognitive empathy resulted in the two-factor solution where psychopathy and the lack of cognitive empathy were extracted as correlated but separate latent variables. The data clearly supported the former model. Research results showed that the lack of cognitive empathy should not be considered an indicator of psychopathy but its correlate. The findings emphasize the need to be cautious in conceptualization of the psychopathy construct.
Keywords Conceptualization of psychopathy  Psychopathic Personality Traits Scale  cognitive empathy  psychopathy
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DOI 10.31820/ejap.14.1.3
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