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Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria

Print version ISSN 1516-4446On-line version ISSN 1809-452X


SERAFIM, Antonio de Pádua; BARROS, Daniel Martins de; VALIM, André  and  GORENSTEIN, Clarice. Cardiac response and anxiety levels in psychopathic murderers. Rev. Bras. Psiquiatr. [online]. 2009, vol.31, n.3, pp.214-218. ISSN 1516-4446.

OBJECTIVE: To compare the emotional response and level of anxiety of psychopathic murderers, non-psychopathic murderers, and nonpsychopathic non-criminals. METHOD: 110 male individuals aged over 18 years were divided into three groups: psychopathic murderers (n = 38); non-psychopathic murderers (n = 37) serving sentences for murder convictions in Maximum Security Prisons in the State of Sao Paulo; and non-criminal, non-psychopathic individuals (n = 35) according to the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised. The emotional response of subjects was assessed by heart rate variation and anxiety level (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory) after viewing standardized pictures depicting pleasant, unpleasant and neutral content from the International Affective Picture System. RESULTS: Psychopathic murderers presented lower anxiety levels and smaller heart rate variations when exposed to pleasant and unpleasant stimuli than nonpsychopathic murderers or non-psychopathic non-criminals. The results also demonstrated that the higher the score for factor 1 on the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, the lower the heart rate variation and anxiety level. CONCLUSION: The results suggest that psychopathic murderers do not present variation in emotional response to different visual stimuli. Although the non-psychopathic murderers had committed the same type of crime as the psychopathic murderers, the former tended to respond with a higher level of anxiety and heart rate variation.

Keywords : Multiple personality disorder; Heart rate; Anxiety; Murder; Violence.

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