Skin Conductance Responses to a Discrete Threat in Virtual Reality: Associations with Psychopathy and Anxiety

Centifanti, Luna CM ORCID: 0000-0003-4562-8187, Gillespie, Steven M ORCID: 0000-0001-7789-5381 and Thomson, Nicholas D
(2022) Skin Conductance Responses to a Discrete Threat in Virtual Reality: Associations with Psychopathy and Anxiety. JOURNAL OF PSYCHOPATHOLOGY AND BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENT, 44 (1). pp. 39-50.

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People with high levels of psychopathic traits are often described as fearless and lacking in emotional depth, particularly when evaluating threats in their environments. Skin conductance responsivity (SCR) to negative emotional stimuli represents a robust autonomic correlate of conduct problem behavior in children (Fanti et al., in <i>Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews</i>, 100, 98-107, 2019). However, studies that have examined threat-related processing in youth with conduct problems have tended to use a variety of negative stimuli that might induce various and unspecific negative emotions. Few studies have taken in to account the moderating effects of anxiety on the relationship of distinct psychopathic traits (e.g., narcissism, callousness, impulsivity) with SCR to a fear inducing stimulus. In this study, we examined SCR to a virtual reality rollercoaster drop - that is, a discrete fear inducing event - in a sample of 75 youths (61 males; <i>M</i> = 14 years, <i>SD</i> = 1.4) enrolled in a non-mainstream school. The rollercoaster drop was used to more clearly examine an event-related response to a discrete threat, rather than examining SCR throughout the rollercoaster ride. We used the teacher-reported Antisocial Process Screening Device (Frick & Hare, in <i>Antisocial process screening device: APSD</i>. Toronto: Multi-Health Systems, 2001) to examine the relations of distinct psychopathic traits with SCR and self-reported anxiety. Lower anxiety was associated with higher callousness, but only in youths with low SCR to discrete threat. These findings suggest that fear and anxiety show complex and interactive relations with distinct psychopathic traits.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Psychopathy, Skin conductance, Virtual reality, Anxiety, Fear
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Population Health
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2022 15:34
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 21:17
DOI: 10.1007/s10862-021-09943-7
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