Both augmented and reduced P3 amplitude have been associated with psychopathic personality. The Two Process Theory (TPT) suggests that there are two etiologically distinct traits underling psychopathy. One of these traits appears to be related to enhanced attention engagement and reduced anxiety. The other is related to impulsivity, social deviance and poor executive function. P3 is a multi-determined component indexing attention and working memory processes related to executive function. As such, we hypothesized that dissociable relationships would exist between these two dimensions and P3. We recorded P3 and the Contingent Negative Variation (CNV), an ERP response shown to be augmented in psychopaths, during an expectancy AX-continuous performance task from 60 undergraduates. We administered the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI). One factor of the PPI, Fearless Dominance, was related to the dimension of the TPT predicted to reflect relatively better executive function. We found that Fearless Dominance was uniquely associated with P3 augmentation. More negative CNV and faster reaction time were also specifically related to Fearless Dominance. These results illustrate the need to examine the differential relationships between psychopathic traits and P3 amplitude.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by faculty start-up funds supplied to the first author by the University of British Columbia, Faculty of Arts and a grant from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada .
- P3 amplitude
- Psychopathic personality
- Reaction time
- Two Factor Theory of psychopathy