Title page for ETD etd-051099-123041

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Cyterski, Trina Doran
Author's Email Address tdoran@vt.edu
URN etd-051099-123041
Title Affect Intensity and Perceptions of Arousal in a Subclinical Level of Psychopathy Termed Aberrant Self-Promotion
Degree PhD
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Gustafson, Sigrid B. Committee Chair
Axsom, Daniel K. Committee Member
Franchina, Joseph J. Committee Member
Friedman, Bruce H. Committee Member
Harrison, David W. Committee Member
  • psychopathy
  • affect intensity
  • arousal
  • emotion
  • aberrant self-promotion
Date of Defense 1999-04-07
Availability unrestricted
The purpose of this study was to answer questions about affect intensity and self-perceived

arousal differences in aberrant self-promoters (ASPs) and in individuals high and low in affect

intensity (AI). Participants in the study completed a task asking them to respond as quickly and

accurately as possible to letter strings presented for 200ms on a computer screen. They

completed the task once with letter strings that formed words with an emotional valance and a

second time with neutral-valence words. After each task, participants made self-reports of

Energy and Tense dimensions of arousal as measured by the Activation-Deactivation Adjective

Checklist. As first formulated, the study examined 4 groups of n = 30 (ASPs, non-ASP controls,

high-AIs, and low-AIs). Results showed that, as hypothesized, ASPs scored significantly lower

than high-AIs on the Affect Intensity Measure (AIM). Other hypotheses were not supported by

analyses of the original four groups. However, because about 1/3 of the ASPs exhibited high

AIM scores, ASPs were divided into primary and secondary types: (a) those who scored low and

(b) those who scored high on the AIM. Subsequent post hoc analyses, based on the hypotheses

that had not been supported initially, were conducted on five groups of n = 7. The study found

that low-AI ASPs reported significantly lower arousability levels than high-AIs. Results also

showed that controls, high-AIs, and low-AIs all reacted significantly more slowly to emotional

words than to neutral words. Low-AI ASPs failed to demonstrate this response-time slowing,

indicating that, like psychopaths, ASPs may process positive, negative, and neutral stimuli

similarly. Additional results indicated that low-AI ASPs decreased both energetic and tension

arousal levels after the emotional word task, compared to the neutral word task, whereas high-AIs

reported corresponding increases in these types of arousal. These findings support Larsen

and Diener's (1987) theory regarding arousal differences in high- and low-AIs. Implications of

these findings are discussed in terms of a weak Behavioral Inhibition System (Gray, 1987).

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