Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder

It might be argued that a diagnosis of ASPD is useful in civil psychiatric settings, particularly as a general risk factor for substance abuse (Leal and others). Even here, however, psychopathy may be more important than ASPD in understanding substance abuse (Alterman and colleagues; Cacciola and others).

The differences between psychopathy and ASPD are further highlighted by recent laboratory research involving the processing and use of linguistic and emotional information. Psychopaths differ dramatically from nonpsychopaths in their performance of a variety of cognitive and affective tasks. Compared with normal individuals, for example, psychopaths are less able to process or use the deep semantic meanings of language and to appreciate the emotional significance of events or experiences (Larbig and others; Patrick; Williamson and others).

It is worth noting that it is the interpersonal and affective components of psychopathy (as measured by PCL-R, Factor 1) that are most discriminating in these experiments. In sharp contrast, those with a diagnosis of ASPD (in which interpersonal and affective traits play little role) differ little from those without ASPD in their processing of linguistic and emotional material.

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