Emotional Content Analysis Among People With Psychopathy During Emotional Induction by the International Affective Picture System


  • Thierry H. Pham
  • Justine Gwicz
  • Anne-Sophie Scohier
  • Dorothée Rousseau
  • Nele Douven
  • Audrey Lavallée
  • Xavier Saloppé Centre de Recherche en Défense Sociale




Psychopathy, emotions, International Affective Picture System, IAPS, content analysis


The emotional processes within people with psychopathy have been thoroughly investigated. Although content analysis is an interesting area for evaluating emotional characteristics, few data exist concerning the speech content of people with psychopathy in response to affective and neutral images. Our study population included male forensic inpatients (n = 47) from Centre Régional de soins Psychiatrique, Les Marronniers, Tournai, Belgium. According to their total score, as measured by the Pscyhopathy Checklist—Revised (PCL-R), the inpatients were divided into three groups: Psychopath (n = 24, PCL-R score of ≥25), Intermediate (n = 12, PCL-R score from 15.0 to 24.9), and Nonpsychopath (n = 11, score of ≤14.9). Using Tropes analyses and EMOTAIX scenario tools, we examined each narrative’s emotional characteristics. We tested the hypothesis that people with psychopathy report fewer emotional words on all International Affective Picture System images, particularly on negative-valence images. Generally, our results do not support this hypothesis, that people with psychopathy report fewer emotional words on all images, but rather suggested a specific discordance in the verbal emotional treatment (exclusively PCL-R Interpersonal factor) but not in terms of the subjective evaluation. Moreover, this interpersonal factor was positively correlated with the self-referring pronouns (i.e., I and me) setting, whereas the PCL-R Social Deviance factor was positively correlated with action verbs. Speech outputs of people with psychopathy present specificities in terms of emotional content and verbal setting. The results are congruent with the notion that psychopathy combines both functionality and subtle impairment.


Hare RD. The Hare Psychopathy Checklist–Revised (2nd ed.). Toronto (ON): Multi-Health System; 2003.

Neumann CS, Hare RD, Newman JP. The super-ordinate nature of the Psychopathy Checklist—Revised. J Pers Disord. 2007;21(2):102-117.

Endres J. The language of the psychopath: Characteristics of prisoners’ performance in a sentence completion test. Crim Behav Ment Health. 2004;14:214-226.

Pennebaker JW, Graybeal A. Patterns of natural language use: Disclosure, personality, and social integration. Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2001;10:90-93.

Pennebaker JW, Mehl MR, Niederhoffer KG. Psychological aspects of natural language use: Our words, our selves. Annl Rev Psychol. 2003;54:547-577.

Oxman TE, Rosenberg SD, Schnurr PP, Tucker GJ. Somatization, paranoia, and language. J Commun Disord. 1988;21:33-50.

Chung CK, Pennebaker JW. Revealing dimensions of thinking in open-ended self-

descriptions: An automated meaning extraction method for natural language. J Res Pers. 2008;42:96-132.

Oberlander J, Gill AJ. Language with character: A stratified corpus comparison of individual differences in e-mail communication.

Discourse Processes. 2006;42:239-270.

Schwartz HA, Eichstaedt JC, Kern ML, Dziurzynski L, Ramones SM, Agrawal M, Agrawal M, Shah A, Kosinski M, Stillwell D, Seligman MEP, Ungar LH. Personality, gender, and age in the language of social media: The open-vocabulary approach. PLoS One. 2013;8(9):e73791.

Campbell RS, Pennebaker JW. The secret life of pronouns: Flexibility in writing style and physical health. Psychol Sci. 2003;14:60-65.

Junghaenel DU, Smyth JM, Santner L. Linguistic dimensions of psychopathology: A quantitative analysis. J Soc Clin Psychol. 2008;27:36-55.

Oxman TE, Rosenberg SD, Schnurr PP, Tucker GJ, Gala G. The language of altered states. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1988;176(7):401-408.

Losh M, Gordon PC. Quantifying narrative ability in autism spectrum disorder: A computational linguistic analysis of narrative coherence. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014;44(12):3016-3025.

Anderson B, Goldin PR, Kurita K, Gross JJ. Self-representation in social anxiety disorder: Linguistic analysis of autobiographical narratives. Behav Res Ther. 2008;46(10):1119-1125.

Sonnenschein AR, Hofmann SG, Ziegelmayer T, Lutz W. Linguistic analysis of patients with mood and anxiety disorders during cognitive behavioral therapy. Cogn Behav Ther. 2018;47(4):315-327.

Brinkley CA, Schmitt WA, Newman JP. Semantic processing in psychopathic offenders. Pers Individ Dif. 2005;38(5):1047-1056.

de Almeida Brites J, Ladera V, Perea V, García R. Verbal functions in psychopathy. Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2015;59(14):1536-1549.

Brinkley CA, Newman JP, Harpur TJ, Johnson MM. Cohesion in texts produced by psychopathic and nonpsychopathic criminal inmates. Pers Individ Dif. 1999;26(5):873-885.

Hancock JT, Woodworth MT, Porter S. Hungry like the wolf: A word-pattern analysis of the language of psychopaths. Legal Criminol Psychol. 2013;18:102-114.

Maslow AH. A theory of human motivation. Psychol Rev. 1943;50(4):370-396.

Le MT, Woodworth M, Gillman L, Hutton E, Hare RD. The linguistic output of psychopathic offenders during a PCL-R interview. Crim Justice Behav. 2017;44(4):551-565.

Christianson S-Å, Forth AE, Hare RD, Strachan C, Lidberg L, Thorell L-H. Remembering details of emotional events: A comparison between psychopathic and nonpsychopathic offenders. Pers Individ Dif. 1996;20:437-443.

Brook M, Brieman CL, Kosson DS. Emotion processing in Psychopathy Checklist—

assessed psychopathy: A review of the literature. Clin Psychol Rev. 2013;33(8):979-995.

de Almeida Brites J. The language of psychopaths: A systematic review. Aggress Violent Behav. 2016;27:50-54.

Piolat A, Bannour R. EMOTAIX : Un scénario de Tropes pour l’identification automatisée du lexique émotionnel et affectif. Année Psychol. 2009;109(4):655-698.

Lang PJ, Bradley MM, Cuthbert B. International Affective Picture System (IAPS): instruction manual and affective ratings. Technical Report A-4. The Center for Research in Psychophysiology. University of Florida; 1999.

Hancock J, Woodworth MT, Morrow R,

McGillivray H, Boochever R. Assessing credibility through text: A preliminary analysis for identifying psychopathy. Proceedings of the Rapid Screening Technologies, Deception Detection and Credibility Assessment. In: Symposium of the 45th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences; 2012;

Maui (HI).

Wechsler D. Manuel de l’Echelle d’Intelligence de Wechsler pour Adultes—3e éd [Manual for the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale—3rd ed]. Grégoire, J, translator. Paris (FR): Les Editions du Centre de Psychologie Appliquée (ECPA); 2000.

Crowne DP, Marlowe D. A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology.

J Consult Psychol. 1960;24(4):349-354.

Pham TH. Évaluation psychométrique du questionnaire de la psychopathie de Hare auprès d’une population carcérale belge [Psychometric evaluation of the Hare Psychopathy Questionnaire in a Belgian prison population]. Encéphale. 1998;24(5):435-441.

Pham TH, Remy S, Dailliet A, Lienard L. Psychopathie et évaluation des comportements violents en milieu psychiatrique de sécurité [Psychopathy and evaluation of violent behavior in a psychiatric security milieu]. Encéphale. 1998;24(3):173-179.

Jeandarme I, Edens JF, Habets P, Bruckers L, Oei K, Bogaerts S. PCL-R field validity in prison and hospital settings. Law Hum Behav. 2017;41(1):29-43.

Pham TH, Ducro C, Marghem B, Réveillère C. Evaluation du risque de recidive au sein d’une population de delinquants incarceres ou

internes en Belgique francophone [Prediction of recidivism among prison inmates and forensic patients in Belgium]. Annales Medico-

Psychologiques. 2005;163(10):842-845.

Côté G, Hodgins S. L’Echelle de Psychopathie de Hare—Révisée—Manuel [The Hare Psychopathy Checklist—Revised—Manual]. Toronto (ON): Multi-Health System; 1996.

Cooke DJ, Michie C. Psychopathy across cultures: North America and Scotland compared. J Abnorm Psychol. 1999;108(1):58-68.

Hare RD, Clark D, Grann M, Thornton D. Psychopathy and the predictive validity of the PCL-R: An international perspective. Behav Sci Law. 2000;18(5):623-645.

Piolat A, Bannour R. An example of text analysis software (EMOTAIX-Tropes) use: The influence of anxiety on expressive writing. Curr Psychol Lett. 2009;25(2):1-21.

Hart SD, Hare RD. Discriminant validity of the Psychopathy Checklist in a forensic psychiatric population. Psychol Assess. 1989;1(3):211-218.

Field A. Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS statistics. Thousand Oaks (CA): Sage; 2013.

Cohen J. A power primer. In: Kazdin AE, editor. Methodological issues and strategies in clinical research (3rd ed.), Washington (DC): American Psychological Association; 2003:427-436.

Habel U, Kühn E, Salloum JB, Devos H, Schneider F. Emotional processing in psychopathic personality. Aggress Behav. 2002;28(5):394-400.

Pham TH, Rimé B, Philippot. Subjective and autonomic responses to emotion induction in psychopaths. Encéphale. 2000;26(1):45-51.

Hicks BM, Patrick CJ. Psychopathy and negative emotionality: Analyses of suppressor effects reveal distinct relations with emotional distress, fearfulness, and anger-hostility.

J Abnorm Psychol. 2006;115(2):276-287.

Raskin R, Shaw R. Narcissism and the use of personal pronouns. J Pers. 1988;56(2):393-404.

Moberley B, Villar G. One more time without feeling: Detecting fabricated remorse using linguistic analysis. Psychiatry Psychol Law. 2016;23(1):102-112.

Pyszczynski T, Greenberg J, Hamilton J, Nix G. On the relationship between self-focused attention and psychological disorder: A critical reappraisal. Psychol Bull. 1991;110(3):538-543.

Rude S, Gortner E-M, Pennebaker J. Language use of depressed and depression-

vulnerable college students. Cogn Emot. 2004;18(8):1121-1133.

Paulhus DL, Curtis SR, Jones DN. Aggression as a trait: The Dark Tetrad alternative. Curr Opin Psychol. 2018;19:88-92.

Courson M, Macoir J, Tremblay P. A facilitating role for the primary motor cortex in action sentence processing. Behav Brain Res. 2018;336:244-249.

Hare RD. Psychopathy, the PCL-R, and criminal justice: Some new findings and current issues. Can Psychol. 2016;57(1):21-34.

Pham TH, Ducro C, Luminet O. Psychopathy, alexithymia and emotional intelligence in a forensic hospital. Int J Forensic Ment Health. 2010;9(1):24-32.

Pham TH, Saloppé X. Influence of psychopathy on self-perceived quality of life in forensic patients: A cohort study in Belgium. J Forens Psychiatry Psychol. 2013;24(1):31-47.

Pham TH, Philippot P. Decoding of facial expression of emotion in criminal psychopaths. J Pers Disord. 2010;24(4):445-459.

Hallé P, Hodgins S, Roussy, S. Revue critique des études expérimentales auprès de détenus adultes: Précision du syndrome de la psychopathie. In: Pham TH & Côté G., editors, Psychopathie: théorie et recherche. Lille (FR): Presses universitaires du Septentrion; 2000. p. 145-182.




How to Cite

Pham, T. H., Gwicz, J., Scohier, A.-S., Rousseau, D., Douven, N., Lavallée, A., & Saloppé, X. (2021). Emotional Content Analysis Among People With Psychopathy During Emotional Induction by the International Affective Picture System. International Journal of Risk and Recovery, 4(1), 17–28. https://doi.org/10.15173/ijrr.v4i1.4274



Original Article