Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-8-2016


Adult psychopathic offenders show an increased propensity towards violence, impulsivity, and recidivism. For a subsample of youth with elevated psychopathic traits, the disorder appears to remain stable throughout development. Such youth represent a particularly severe subgroup characterized by their extreme behavioral problems and comparable neurocognitive deficits as their adult counterparts, including perseveration deficits. Here, we investigated error-related processing using two distinct neuroimaging methodologies in response-locked event-related potentials (ERPs) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in two samples of incarcerated juvenile male offenders who performed a response inhibition Go/NoGo task. Adolescent psychopathic traits were assessed using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (PCL:YV). In Study 1, PCL:YV scores were unrelated to the error-related negativity (ERN/Ne) amplitude linked to early error-monitoring processes, but were negatively related to error-related positivity (Pe) amplitude, reflecting later stages of error-related processing. In Study 2, PCL:YV scores were negatively associated with hemodynamic activity in subregions encompassing the basal ganglia, including the caudate, nucleus accumbens, globus pallidus, subthalamic nucleus, and substantia nigra during error-related processing. These two studies support the attentional bottleneck theory, whereby adolescents with elevated psychopathic traits devote attentional resources to early error-related processing, but exhibit a specific deficit in allocating attentional resources to further processing of error-related information, including the motivational significance of such information to ongoing behavior. These two studies provide the first evidence to suggest that youth with elevated psychopathic traits do not process error-related information effectively, which could potentially help explain this population’s increased propensity towards negative outcomes including recidivism.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Kent Kiehl

Second Committee Member

Vince Calhoun

Third Committee Member

James Cavanagh




juvenile delinquency, event-related potentials, functional magnetic resonance imaging, psychopathy, error-related processing

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Included in

Psychology Commons