Somatic aphasia: Mismatch of body sensations with autonomic stress reactivity in psychopathy

Biological Psychology 90:228–233 (2012)
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Background— Although one of the main characteristics of psychopaths is a deficit in emotion, it is unknown whether they show a fundamental impairment in appropriately recognizing their own body sensations during an emotion-inducing task. Method— Skin conductance and heart rate were recorded in 138 males during a social stressor together with subjective reports of body sensations. Psychopathic traits were assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL-R) 2nd edition (Hare, 2003). Results— Nonpsychopathic controls who reported higher body sensations showed higher heart rate reactivity, but this verbal-autonomic consistency was not found in psychopathic individuals. This mind-body disconnection is particularly associated with the interpersonal-affective factor of psychopathy. Conclusions— Findings are the first to document this body sensations– autonomic mismatch in psychopaths, and suggest that somatic aphasia the inaccurate identification and recognition of one‘s own somatic states may partly underlie the interpersonal-affective features of psychopaths.

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