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Detection of Psychopathic Traits in Emotional Faces

Institute of Psychology and Education, Ulm University, Albert-Einstein-Allee 47, 89081 Ulm, Germany
Therapy Department, Justizvollzugsanstalt Bruchsal, Schönbornstraße 32, 76646 Bruchsal, Germany
Department of Forensic Psychiatry, University Hospital of Zurich, Rämistrasse 100, 8006 Zürich, Switzerland
School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2050, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 October 2020 / Revised: 6 May 2021 / Accepted: 28 May 2021 / Published: 4 June 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Socio-Emotional Ability Research)
When meeting someone at zero acquaintance, we make assumptions about each other that encompass emotional states, personality traits, and even cognitive abilities. Evidence suggests individuals can accurately detect psychopathic personality traits in strangers based on short video clips or photographs of faces. We present an in-depth examination of this ability. In two studies, we investigated whether high psychopathy traits are perceivable and whether other traits affect ratings of psychopathic traits in the sense of a halo effect. On the perceiver’s end, we additionally examined how cognitive abilities and personality traits of the responders affect these ratings. In two studies (n1 = 170 community adults from the USA, n2 = 126 students from Australia), participants rated several targets on several characteristics of psychopathy, as well as on attractiveness, masculinity, sympathy, trustworthiness, neuroticism, intelligence, and extraversion. Results show that responders were generally able to detect psychopathy. Responders generally came to a consensus in their ratings, and using profile similarity metrics, we found a weak relation between ratings of psychopathy and the targets’ psychopathy level as determined by the Psychopathy Checklist: Short Version. Trait ratings, though, were influenced by the ratings of other traits like attractiveness. Finally, we found accuracy in the perception of psychopathy was positively related to fluid intelligence but unrelated to emotion perception ability. View Full-Text
Keywords: psychopathy; perception; halo effect; detecting psychopathy; thin-slice judgments psychopathy; perception; halo effect; detecting psychopathy; thin-slice judgments
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MDPI and ACS Style

Olderbak, S.; Bader, C.; Hauser, N.; Kleitman, S. Detection of Psychopathic Traits in Emotional Faces. J. Intell. 2021, 9, 29.

AMA Style

Olderbak S, Bader C, Hauser N, Kleitman S. Detection of Psychopathic Traits in Emotional Faces. Journal of Intelligence. 2021; 9(2):29.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Olderbak, Sally, Christina Bader, Nicole Hauser, and Sabina Kleitman. 2021. "Detection of Psychopathic Traits in Emotional Faces" Journal of Intelligence 9, no. 2: 29.

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