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Callous-unemotional traits are related to combined deficits in recognizing afraid faces and body poses.

Centifanti (née Muñoz), L.C. (2009) 'Callous-unemotional traits are related to combined deficits in recognizing afraid faces and body poses.', Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry., 48 (5). pp. 554-562.


Objectives: The aim of the present study was to examine accuracy in labeling body poses conveying fear. Youths with callous-unemotional traits experience emotional processing deficits seemingly on par with deficits showed by patients with amygdala damage. That is, there is growing evidence that children with callous-unemotional traits have problems recognizing afraid emotional expressions. Although people with amygdala damage show deficits in labeling afraid faces, they have an intact ability to label afraid body poses. Method: Boys (N = 55; ages 8-16 years) from a community center were recruited to label emotional faces and static body poses and to complete the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits and a measure of violence and antisocial behavior. Results: Callous-unemotional traits were related to poorer accuracy when labeling afraid faces and afraid body postures. However, when response bias was taken into account, callous-unemotional traits were related to deficits in many facial expressions. Notably, the combination of poorly labeling afraid faces and body poses was linked to the highest levels of callous-unemotional traits and violence. Conclusions: Findings support a generalized deficit in processing displays of fear that are not specific to faces. The results support the argument that a general “fear-blindness” is related to a lack of empathy and to violence and antisocial behavior. Methodological issues with regard to deciding whether people are accurately labeling fear and other emotions are discussed. However, early identification of fear deficits that affect multiple modalities is argued to be important for clinical intervention.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Callous-unemotional traits, Emotion recognition, Violence.
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Publisher statement:NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 48/5, 2009, 10.1097/CHI.0b013e31819c2419
Record Created:08 Nov 2012 14:35
Last Modified:27 Jun 2013 16:54

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