Featured Published Manuscript of the Month: April, 2018
Chosen and summarized by: Scott Tillem
Verschuere, B., van Ghesel Grothe, S., Waldorp, L., Watts, A. L., Lilienfeld, S. O., Edens, J. F., ... &
Noordhof, A. (2018). What features of psychopathy might be central? A network analysis of the
Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) in three large samples. Journal of Abnormal
Psychology, 127(1), 51-65.
Corresponding Author: Bruno Verschuere ([email protected]), University of Amsterdam
Psychopathy is a multifaceted personality disorder characterized by the presence of various personality
traits (e.g., callousness/lack of empathy, glib/superficial charm, irresponsibility, criminal versatility, etc.).
However, it remains unclear which traits, if any, are truly central to the psychopathy phenotype. Using a
network analysis of PCL-R item scores, Verschuere et al., (2018) investigated this issue in three large
independent samples, two samples from the United States (NIMH sample: n = 1559; Wisconsin sample: n
= 3954) and one Dutch sample (TBS sample n = 1937).
A few key findings were:
Callousness/lack of empathy was the most central trait in both U.S. samples (closely followed by
shallow affect in the NIMH sample).
While callousness/lack of empathy was also central in the Dutch sample, irresponsibility was
significantly more central than callousness/lack of empathy.
Many short-term relationships and revocation of conditional release were the least central traits in
both U.S. samples.
Many short-term relationships, promiscuous sexual behavior, and shallow affect were the least
central traits in the Dutch sample.
Some key implications:
Callousness/lack of empathy is a central feature of the psychopathy phenotype, particularly in
The differences between the U.S. and Dutch samples suggest that there may be cross-cultural
differences in either the phenotypic presentation or assessment of psychopathy, or participant
recruitment for studies examining psychopathy. Moreover, these differences highlight the
importance of considering these potential cultural differences in future research.
The current findings also highlight the utility of using network analyses when evaluating associations
among related items.