Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jeffrey S. Simons


This study examined the role of emotional attention regulation in men (N = 60) currently incarcerated in a Midwestern prison. Modern conceptualizations define psychopathy as a multifaceted and dimensional construct that includes atypical experience of affect, interpersonal problems, and remarkable social deviance. Attentional differences and deficient emotional experience have been shown to predict psychopathy and other outcomes related to the construct. However, attentional and emotional functioning in individuals high in psychopathy is complex and results have been shown to vary across discrete emotion states and experimental paradigms. The negative preception hypothesis (Kosson et al. 2018) suggests that these differences may be the result of regulation of attention away from emotional experience as opposed to a general diminished emotional responsiveness, resulting in poor establishment of affect – consequence relationships and an overall impoverished emotional life. Deficits in tuning into nonverbal cues (TINC) and tuning out nonverbal cues (TONC) did not predict scores on an interview-based measure of psychopathy (PCL:SV). However, exploratory analyses with a self-report measure of psychopathy (TriPM) suggest deficits in these skills may be relevant in the context of alternate models of psychopathy. These results highlight the importance of accurately defining and understanding the heterogeneous construct of psychopathy and suggest that an inability to modulate attention toward or away from nonverbal emotional cues may exhibit distinct relationships with differing phenotypic components of the construct. Specifically, deficits relating to tuning into emotional cues may speak to an adaptive element of boldness in the triarchic psychopathy conceptualization while performance related to tuning out nonverbal cues was inversely related with a scale measure of meanness, callousness, and aggression.

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Psychology


Attention, emotion attention regulation, emotion regulation, incarcerated, PCL:SV, psychopathy

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota