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ISBN 9783843928472

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978-3-8439-2847-2, Reihe Psychologie

Sarah V. Mayer
Empathy, prosociality, and fairness norm representations in antisocial violent offenders: evidence from neuroeconomics

143 Seiten, Dissertation Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen (2016), Hardcover, A5

Zusammenfassung / Abstract

Antisociality and psychopathy are both characterized by a profound lack of empathy and a stable pattern of disregard for and violation of others’ rights. Disruptions in these complex areas of social cognitive functioning are discussed to represent key mechanisms in the development and maintenance of aggressive and psychopathic behavior. However, empirical evidence is scarce and experimental studies assessing actual behavioral outcomes as well as underlying neuronal correlates in antisocial and psychopathic populations are pending. Thus, the aim of the present work was to thoroughly examine complex social cognitive abilities in antisocial violent offenders relative to carefully matched controls: In experiment I, empathic competencies and the impact of an experimental empathy induction on altruistic behavior were assessed. Experiment II aimed to investigate fairness norm considerations, reactions to their violations as well as electrophysiological correlates. For this purpose, social decision-making paradigms from economics were used as measures of altruism and fairness norm representations, as they offer an ecologically valid approach to investigate disruptions in interpersonal functioning. Experiment I revealed that violent offending per se was not associated with deficient empathy. Moreover, empathy was successfully induced in both groups, as indicated by higher empathy levels and more altruistic behavior. However, violent offenders were overall less altruistic than controls and thus displayed more rational and self-centered behavior. In experiment II, antisocial violent offenders demonstrated intact fairness norm representations, as they were capable of adapting their behavior strategically for their own benefit. However, the offender group displayed attenuated behavioral and electrophysiological reactions when confronted with fairness norm violations, suggesting more rational and less emotional decision-making behavior. Taken together, the results of the present work indicate altered, but not absent complex social cognitive abilities in antisocial violent offenders which are evident even in early processing stages. Implications for future research and therapeutic interventions are outlined.