Unfair offers, unfair offenders? Fairness considerations in incarcerated individuals with and without psychopathy.Front Hum Neurosci. 2013; 7:406.FH
Offenders with psychopathy have often committed crimes violating social norms, which may suggest a biased moral reasoning in psychopathy. Yet, as findings on utilitarian decisions remain conflicting, the current study investigated different aspects of fairness considerations in offenders with psychopathy, offenders without psychopathy and healthy individuals (N = 18/14/18, respectively). Unfair offers in a modified Ultimatum Game (UG) were paired with different unselected alternatives, thereby establishing the context of a proposal, and made under opposing intentionality constraints (intentional vs. unintentional). As in previous studies, unfair offers were most often rejected when the alternative was fair and when the offer was made intentionally. Importantly, however, offenders with psychopathy demonstrated a similar rejection pattern to that of healthy individuals, i.e., taking the unselected alternative into account. In contrast, delinquents without psychopathy did not adjust their decision behavior to the alternatives to an offer, suggesting stronger impairments in social decision-making. Crucially, the mechanisms and processes underlying rejection decisions might differ, particularly with regard to cognitive vs. emotional competencies. While preserved cognitive perspective-taking could drive seemingly intact decision patterns in psychopathy, emotional empathy is likely to be compromised.