Emotional functioning in psychopathy: A critical review and integration with general emotion theories

Lieke Nentjes, Carlo Garofalo*, D.S. Kosson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


It is widely acknowledged that profound abnormalities in emotional functioning lie at the heart of psychopathy. Over the years, many theories have been developed to explain the nature and manifestation of emotional dysfunctions in psychopathy. The present chapter provides an overview of the main approaches that have been adopted to conceptualize psychopathy and discusses the extent to which these perspectives can account for the growing body of research on the emotional functioning that characterizes psychopathy. Subsequently, a contemporary, comprehensive perspective on emotional functioning is presented, in which emotion is constituted by a number of related, yet dissociable components. For each of these components, we briefly outline what is already known from the empirical literature in relation to psychopathy. The present review suggests that psychopathy is associated with psychophysiological abnormalities in emotional contexts, as well as with difficulties in the recognition of others' emotions. It also appears that there is a relative scarcity of empirical research in other emotion domains. Specifically, extant knowledge is far from conclusive regarding: the interpretative processes that underlie emotional appraisals, facial expressiveness, action potentials, subjective emotional experiences, the regulation of emotions, and the motivational processes that can influence each of these components. We conclude by outlining a number of avenues that are in need of further research to reach a more comprehensive understanding of emotional functioning in psychopathy, stressing the importance of the dynamic nature of this disorder.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychopathy and ciminal behavior
Subtitle of host publicationCurrent trends and challenges
EditorsP. Marques, M. Paulino, L. Akho
ISBN (Electronic)9780128114209
ISBN (Print)9780128114193
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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