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Neural Correlates of Social Cooperation and Non-Cooperation as a Function of Psychopathy

      Background

      Psychopathy is a disorder involving a failure to experience many emotions that are necessary for appropriate social behavior. In this study, we probed the behavioral, emotional, and neural correlates of psychopathic traits within the context of a dyadic social interaction.

      Methods

      Thirty subjects were imaged with functional magnetic resonance imaging while playing an iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma game with human confederates who were outside the scanner. Subjects also completed two self-report psychopathy questionnaires.

      Results

      Subjects scoring higher on psychopathy, particularly males, defected more often and were less likely to continue cooperating after establishing mutual cooperation with a partner. Further, they experienced more outcomes in which their cooperation was not reciprocated (cooperate–defect outcome). After such outcomes, subjects scoring high in psychopathy showed less amygdala activation, suggesting weaker aversive conditioning to those outcomes. Compared with low-psychopathy subjects, subjects higher in psychopathy also showed weaker activation within orbitofrontal cortex when choosing to cooperate and showed weaker activation within dorsolateral prefrontal and rostral anterior cingulate cortex when choosing to defect.

      Conclusions

      These findings suggest that whereas subjects scoring low on psychopathy have emotional biases toward cooperation that can only be overcome with effortful cognitive control, subjects scoring high on psychopathy have an opposing bias toward defection that likewise can only be overcome with cognitive effort.

      Key Words

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      Linked Article

      • Erratum
        Biological PsychiatryVol. 67Issue 6
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          An error has been discovered in “Neural Correlates of Social Cooperation and Non-Cooperation as a Function of Psychopathy” by Rilling et al., which appeared in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 61, Number 11 (2007;61:1260–1271). Factor 1 and factor 2 scores on the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI) questionnaire were inadvertently interchanged in all of the statistical analyses. Therefore, correlation coefficients listed for PPI factor 1 and PPI factor 2 in Tables 1–7 should be reversed, i.e., correlation coefficients in the factor 1 column should be moved to the factor 2 column, and vice-versa.
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