Evaluation of the Moderated-Expression and Differential Configuration Hypotheses in the Context of "Successful" or "Noncriminal" Psychopathy

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The concept of "successful" psychopathy has intrigued the field, yet relatively little actual science exists to understand what makes those high in psychopathic traits more or less successful, or even what constitutes "success." In the current study, we examined the validity of the moderated expression hypothesis, including an elaborated version that considers differential configuration of psychopathy traits, as accounting for differences in criminal and noncriminal (the most common operationalization of "success") expressions of psychopathy. The latter was conceptualized from the perspective of the triarchic psychopathy model. We recruited a community sample (n = 212) that had been overweighted toward psychopathic personality traits. The triarchic psychopathy domains of boldness, meanness, and disinhibition were modeled as latent constructs based on scores from multiple psychopathy measures. We examined affective processing dysfunction, various executive cognitive deficits, substance misuse, and socioeconomic indicators (income, education) as potential moderators of associations between psychopathy and criminality. We estimated a series of latent regression models in which we tested interaction effects between hypothesized moderators and a latent criminality variable. We found that affective processing dysfunction, substance misuse, and the triarchic psychopathy domain of disinhibition all moderated the association between meanness and criminality, in that the latter association was stronger as these moderators increased in severity. Disinhibition was also moderated by substance misuse and boldness by both personal income and commission errors from a go/no-go task, though in the case of the latter domain, these moderators served as protective factors against criminality.


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