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Empathic and Moral Processing in Personality Disordered Patients - V.1

  • Research type

    Research Study

  • Full title

    An investigation of empathic and moral decision making processes comparing patients with a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder and patients with a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder and Psychopathy.



  • Contact name

    Birgit Vollm

  • Contact email

  • Sponsor organisation

    Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

  • Identifier

    N/A, N/A

  • Duration of Study in the UK

    2 years, 0 months, 1 days

  • Research summary

    The prevalence of personality disorder in the prison and forensic-psychiatric population is significantly higher than in community samples, the most common being anti-social personality disorder (ASPD). It is believed that within the population of violent offenders there are separate subgroups characterised by distinct patterns of antisocial behaviour with distinctive aetiologies. Whilst one subgroup engages in emotionally charged or reaction aggression, the other smaller subgroup shows a particularly persistent and violent pattern of behaviour,is emotionally flat and engages in instrumental aggression, meeting diagnostic criteria for Psychopathy. Psychopaths create considerable costs for society. Although they form only a minority of the prison population (approximately 15-30%), they commit a disproportionate amount of crimes (50% more than non-psychopathic criminals) and are more likely to commit violent offences. Although psychopathy is thought to relate to deficits in empathy and morality, there is no comprehensive study so far utilising several tasks concurrently to investigate what specific dimensions of empathy and morality are impaired or related to the different conceptual subgroups of violent offenders (i.e. with a diagnosis of ASPD or with a diagnosis of ASPD and Psychopathy).

    The main goal of this study is to investigate which specific dimensions of empathy and morality are impaired in these different subgroups, using a wide battery of questionnaires and experimental tasks probing different dimensions of empathy and morality. Two groups will be recruited from the Enhanced Personality Disorder Service and Personality Disorder Services at Rampton High Secure Hospital, Arnold Lodge Medium Secure Unit and Wells Road Low-Secure Centre. A control group of healthy male non-offenders will also be recruited via poster advertisement from the same NHS Hospitals and the University of Nottingham.

    Identifying the specific emotional deficits that underpin these patterns of violence can provide important information on the development of rehabilitation programmes that target these specific impairments.

  • REC name

    East Midlands - Nottingham 1 Research Ethics Committee

  • REC reference


  • Date of REC Opinion

    15 Jun 2015

  • REC opinion

    Further Information Favourable Opinion

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