Spiteful and contemptuous: A new look at the emotional experiences related to psychopathy

Carlo Garofalo*, C.S. Neumann, V. Zeigler-Hill, J. R. Meloy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Psychopathy has long been conceptualized in terms of an absence of emotion. Yet, recent studies have suggested that the experience of other-directed negative emotions may be more intimately linked to psychopathy than previously acknowledged, although there is limited knowledge concerning the experience of such emotions. The present study examined the disposition to experience two other-directed emotions, spitefulness and contempt, that are conceptually linked with psychopathy but currently are limited in empirical support. Across 2 studies with 3 nonclinical samples (Ns = 1,237, 239, 521), we found evidence that psychopathic traits—as assessed via the Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (SRP; Paulhus, Neumann, & Hare, 2016; Study 1 and Study 2) and the Triarchic Psychopathy Measure (TriPM; Patrick, 2010; Study 2)—were positively associated with spitefulness (Study 1) and contempt (Study 2). These associations were consistent across psychopathy instruments (SRP and TriPM) and dimensions (i.e., the SRP Interpersonal, Affective, Lifestyle, and Antisocial facets, and the TriPM Meanness and Disinhibition dimensions), were stronger for the interpersonal and affective traits of psychopathy, and held when accounting for several theoretically relevant covariates. The only exception concerned the TriPM Boldness scale, which had less consistent associations with contempt. The present findings further our understanding of the emotional experiences related to psychopathy, highlighting the relevance of focusing on other-directed negative emotions, especially those that are interpersonal in nature and share an antagonistic component. (
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-184
JournalPersonality Disorders. Theory Research and Treatment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • antagonism
  • contempt
  • negative affect
  • psychopathic personality
  • spitefulness


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