British Journal of Clinical Psychology

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Volume 24 Issue 2 (May 1985), Pages 73-144

Reactions of primary and secondary psychopaths to anger‐evoking situations (pages 93-100)

Offender patients at a psychiatric security hospital were classified as primary or secondary psychopaths or as conforming or inhibited non‐psychopaths, and compared on a Situations‐Reactions Inventory of Hostility. Prior factor analysis of this inventory indicated two classes of situation, labelled attack and frustration, and three classes of reaction — aggression, anger, and arousal. Psychopathic subjects generally rated their reactions as more intense but differed significantly from non‐psychopaths only in their response to attack. Secondary psychopaths produced the most intense reactions, but differed from primary psychopaths in reporting greater somatic arousal. The results suggest that psychopaths as a group more readily interpret provocation or threats from others as unwarranted attack. It is proposed that an attributional bias towards perceiving malevolent intent may be central to psychopathy.

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