Psychopathy

Although I am interested in personality and individual differences in general, I have always been most interested in the least attractive personality traits. Thus, I'm a huge fan of the Dark Triad of Personality (Machiavellianism, Narcissism, & sub-clinical psychopathy; Paulhus & Williams, 2002). My colleagues and I have recently suggested that the heart of the dark triad might represent what many people think of as "evil" (Book, Visser, & Volk, 2015). I am particularly interested in psychopathy, a construct characterized by interpersonal manipulation, lack of empathy, shallow emotions, callous affect, and parasitic lifestyle. 

My own research on psychopathy has included work on the role of anxiety in the psychopathy construct (Visser, Ashton, & Pozzebon, 2012). When we see psychopaths in the movies and on television, they always seem to be calm, cool predators. In my research, anxiety was pretty much unrelated to other aspects of the psychopathy construct, at least in my non-clinical sample. I've also investigated the relationship between psychopathy and Emotional Intelligence (EI; Visser, Bay, Cook, & Myburgh, 2010). It seemed to me that psychopathy might be related to high EI in some domains. After all, to be effective manipulators, high scorers in psychopathy should be good at "reading" other people, and using emotional information. Happily for the rest of us, psychopathy was related to low levels of EI ability in all domains. 

Our recent research has suggested that psychopathy is related to sexual fantasy content (Visser et al., 2014). In our lab, psychopathy not only predicted what people fantasized about, but whether they had acted on their fantasies in real life.

My students and I are currently working on an investigation of psychopathy and lying, and I am collecting data for a study around perspective-taking and psychopathy. Watch here for updates!