Frustration elevates arousal in individuals high on the psychopathy scale: The role of approach, not avoidance motivation
Keywords:psychopathy, wanting, approach-avoidance, Ultimatum Game, electrodermal activity
Psychopaths tend to react with aggression when mistreated. The literature offers two contradicting explanations of this subject. The aim of this study is to determine whether approach or (the lack of) avoidance motivation underlie emotional reactions of individuals with elevated psychopathic tendencies in frustrative situations. The sample of sixty participants (43.3% male) participated in the experiment in which the Ultimatum Game was used to induce the feeling of injustice. The participants received four fair offers in the first phase of the game and six unfair offers in the second phase of the experiment. Their electrodermal activity (EDA) was recorded during both parts of the experiment. Along with the EDA recording, the participants fulfilled Short Dark Triad (SD3) questionnaire and Questionnaire of Approach and Avoidance Motivation (QAAM). Generally, the unfair offers significantly elevated EDA in comparison to the levels of EDA during the fair part of the experiment. The mediational analysis conducted by hierarchical regression analysis revealed that psychopathy is associated with a higher EDA in frustrative conditions, which is entirely explained by QAAM wanting, i.e. approach-related scale. Neither of avoidance-related scales predicted the EDA. This result indicates that individuals with elevated psychopathic tendencies experience stronger emotional reactions when facing the potential loss of rewards, which is driven by their stronger approach motivation, and not by the lack of avoidance motivation. Hence, the study contributes to the understanding of the underlying reason for emotional reactions of individuals with elevated psychopathic tendencies in unfair conditions within the approach-avoidance framework. Implications for the methodological setting of future studies on this subject are discussed.
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