Focusing on sadism, we investigated motive dispositions in psychopathy. In a non-clinical sample (N=101) we employed a novel, multimethod design (self-reports and Facial Electromyography [fEMG]) to assess automatic affective reactions (indexing motive dispositions) to affiliative, antagonistic, and sadistic images. Individuals low in psychopathy, resembling universal human tendencies, reacted more positively (zygomaticus) to affiliation than to antagonism and sadism. These differences fell to almost half the size at high psychopathy levels: positive reactions to affiliative and antagonistic stimuli (ambiguous perception of harm) but also to sadistic, wherein harm is contextually clear. We provide preliminary evidence for sadistic motive dispositions in psychopathy.
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