Emotional callousness and vicarious emotional reactions to the misfortune of others
Steinert, Steven W.
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Agnello & Lishner (2013) suggests that when presented with a person in need, psychopathy is positively related to feeling positive emotion (amusement, joy, humored) and negatively related to feeling empathic concern. Miller et al. (2015) conceptually replicated that study and again found a negative association between emotional callousness and empathic concern. They also employed an outcome manipulation and found that emotional callousness was positively associated with positive affect, but only in a condition where the ostensible person’s need was unlikely to improve. The current study (N=179) provided a direct replication of those findings while also examining whether psychopathy is positively associated with desire for additional exposure to the person in need, whose situation is unlikely to improve. After reading an article about an ostensible person whose need situation was likely or unlikely to improve, participants rated their emotional reactions and then chose to either read more about that person, or about someone new. Consistent with previous studies, results indicated a negative association between emotional callousness and empathic concern. However, results also indicated little association between emotional callousness and positive affect, regardless of need outcome. Additionally, there was no association between emotional callousness and selection of the second article when controlling for gender and other psychopathic traits. The results suggest that psychopathic emotional callousness reflects low care about those in need as opposed to sadistic enjoyment at the suffering of others.