Attention to eyes and psychopathic traits

Heat maps showing attention to the eyes and mouth for a single low scoring (left) and high scoring (right) primary psychopathic traits participant

Researchers in the School have published a paper which shows that male individuals with high psychopathic traits have reduced attention to the eye region when looking at faces. 

Both adult males with a diagnosis of psychopathy, and children with conduct problems and elevated callous-unemotional traits, show impaired recognition of others emotional facial expressions. These impairments are particularly true for expressions of fear and may reflect reduced attention to the eye region. 

In this paper the team aimed to examine the association of psychopathic personality traits with attention to the eyes and the mouth of emotional faces. Eye tracking techniques were used to measure participants overall dwell time, as well as the total number of times they ‘visited’ the eye and the mouth region of emotional faces, during an expression recognition task. 

Results showed that increasing levels of psychopathic traits were associated with a reduced number of fixations, and lower overall dwell time, on the eye region of emotional faces. Furthermore, a higher total number of fixations on the eyes of angry and afraid faces was associated with increased accuracy when judging these emotions. 

These results are the first to show that psychopathic traits in a sample of adult males are associated with reduced attention to the eyes. 

Reference

Gillespie, S. M., Rotshtein, P., Wells, L. J., Beech, A. R., & Mitchell, I. J. (2015). Psychopathic traits are associated with reduced attention to the eyes of emotional faces among adult male non-offenders. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00552