• Context

It is well established in the literature on emotions and emotion regulation (Barańczuk, 2019) that effective methods to regulate emotions are antecedent-focused, that is, they are the emotion regulation strategies that can be acted before the full-blown emotion is underway (e.g. re-appraisal, attention focus).

On the other hand, response-focused emotion regulation, that is, emotion regulation strategies that are acted when the full-blown emotion is already underway and are acted upon the emotion (e.g. suppression of the thoughts and emotions associated with the situation; suppression of the expression of the emotion; avoidance) is detrimental and ineffective.

Moreover, antecedent-focus emotion regulation has been found effective in decision making performance, and information-oriented job performance (traders), or communication-oriented job performance (front-line service workers) (Fenton‐O'Creevy et al. 2011).

  • The process model of emotion regulation (Gross, 1998, 2014), reproduced from (Peña-Sarrionandia et al. 2015)

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  • Problem:

On the other hand, psychopaths tend to use deception a lot, which consists in faking emotion (in terms of emotion regulation, it would be situated into the response-focused strategies). This faking of emotions by psychopaths is clearly explained by the psychopathy expert Robert Hare, in this interview.

Robert Hare explains that psychopathic personalities basically don't have emotions, and when they appear to have some, they are just in fact faking them.

The research on neurocitism (negative emotions) and psychopathy, as well on the psychopathy construct itself, is difficult.

Ross et al. (2004) found that the primary psychopathy (the one Hare may be talking about in the interview), which is defined as "an inclination to lie, lack of remorse, callousness, and manipulativeness", is not associated with neuroticism.

Secondary psychopathy, defined as an inclination to "impulsivity, intolerance of frustration, quick-temperedness, and lack of long-term goals", was positively associated to neuroticism.

  • Question:

According to today's understanding of psychopathy: how could psychopaths manage their emotions (which lead them to successfully deceipt other people) while the same strategy they use to deceipt (intervening on the emotion expression) is found to be ineffective and detrimental to emotion regulation?


Barańczuk, U. (2019). The five factor model of personality and emotion regulation: A meta-analysis. Personality and Individual Differences, 139, 217-227.

Fenton‐O'Creevy, M., Soane, E., Nicholson, N., & Willman, P. (2011). Thinking, feeling and deciding: The influence of emotions on the decision making and performance of traders. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32(8), 1044-1061.

Gross, J. J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: an integrative review. Rev. Gen. Psychol. 2, 271–299. doi: 10.1037/1089-2680.2.3.271

Gross, J. J. (2014). “Emotion regulation: conceptual and empirical foundations,” in Handbook of Emotion Regulation, ed J. J. Gross (New York, NY: Guilford Press), 3–20.

Peña-Sarrionandia, A., Mikolajczak, M., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Integrating emotion regulation and emotional intelligence traditions: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 160.

Ross, S. R., Lutz, C. J., & Bailley, S. E. (2004). Psychopathy and the five factor model in a noninstitutionalized sample: A domain and facet level analysis. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 26, 213-223.

  • $\begingroup$ Psychopaths do have emotions. They are just not good at processing other humans' emotions. They feel their own emotions. psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/shadow-boxing/202104/… $\endgroup$
    – Aseku Vena
    Apr 9, 2023 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ @AsekuVena The author of the paper seems to not make the distinction between primary and secondary psychopathy. Secondary psychopaths indeed have emotions (they are highly neurotic), but primary psychopath are emotionnally deficient $\endgroup$
    – Starckman
    Apr 9, 2023 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ See this paper Yildirim, B. O., & Derksen, J. J. (2015). Clarifying the heterogeneity in psychopathic samples: Towards a new continuum of primary and secondary psychopathy. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 24, 9-41. $\endgroup$
    – Starckman
    Apr 9, 2023 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ They do, but barely. Anyway, the reason I bring it up is thinking about other humans' emotions are tied to your own. As a lot of the time you just imagine yourself in their scenario. $\endgroup$
    – Aseku Vena
    Apr 10, 2023 at 15:30


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