Featured Published Manuscript of the Month:February, 2018

Chosen and summarized by: Daniel T. Burley

Esteller, À., Poy, R., & Moltó, J. (2016). Deficient aversive-potentiated startle and the Triarchic model of psychopathy: the role of boldness. Biol Psychol, 117, 131-140.

Corresponding Author:  Javier Moltó Brotons ([email protected]), Universitat Jaume I, Castellón, Spain


This study examined the relationship between the phenotypes of Boldness, Meanness and Disinhibition of the Triarchic model of psychopathy (TMP; Patrick, Fowles, & Krueger, 2009) and affective-potentiated startle response within a male and female undergraduate population. One-hundred and eighty participants passively-viewed threatening, mutilation, erotic and neutral images and eye-blink responses were recorded to an aversive noise-probe during these stimuli.

A few key findings were:

·       Diminished threat-neutral potentiated startle responses were uniquely related to Boldness scores, but were not related to Meanness and Disinhibition scores.

The phenotypic domains of the TMP were unrelated to affective-potentiated startle responses during images of mutilation or erotica.

Some key implications:

Ø  Deficits in defensive reactivity were specific to the social efficacy, imperturbability and venturesome features of psychopathy (Boldness), rather than the cold-hearted, callous or antagonistic traits (Meanness) described by the TMP, despite both phenotypes theoretically share the same underlying low-fear disposition.

 The observed deficits were specific to threat stimuli and did not extend to mutilation stimuli, suggesting non-criminal psychopathy to be associated with a weakness in fear reactivity rather than a wider aversive impairment.

Ø  The research highlights the centrality of Boldness (but not Meanness) to deficits in defensive reactivity, which supports the parsing of the affective-interpersonal core of psychopathy in these two distinctive and separate configurations of traits, and thus the validity of the Triarchic conceptualization of psychopathy in disentangling the etiology of this personality disorder.