Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Derek R. Hopko


A robust finding is that psychopaths exhibit electrodermal hyporeactivity in the presence of stimuli that elicit anxiety in non-psychopathic samples. This finding has been associated with decreased anxiety, although recent research suggests the relationship between psychopathic traits and electrodermal hyporeactivity may be related to other correlates of psychopathy (i.e. decreased inhibitory control, risk-taking, and executive functioning deficits). The present study was a preliminary examination to assess electrodermal reactivity, disinhibition, risk-taking, and executive functioning in a sample of undergraduate students with varying degrees of psychopathic characteristics. Results generally did not support hypothesized relationships between psychopathic traits, physiological responsivity, and executive functioning deficits. Specifically, higher self reported psychopathy scores were not predictive of depressed skin conductance responses to unpleasant images nor was psychopathy related to executive functioning deficits. However, consistent with hypotheses, Self-Report Psychopathy -II factor 2 scores (antisocial behaviors) were significantly related to both self-reported impulsivity and a behavioral measure of risk-taking. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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