Date of Award

Fall 12-2018

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Joye C. Anestis

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Michael D. Anestis

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Nora E. Charles

Committee Member 3 School



This thesis project examines the roles of empathy facets and emotion dysregulation in the relationship between psychopathic personality traits and aggression within an undergraduate sample. The project addresses three gaps in research – how psychopathic personality traits relate to empathy facets from a recently developed measure of empathy (Affective and Cognitive Measure of Empathy [ACME]; Vachon & Lynam, 2016); how psychopathic traits indirectly affect aggression functions (i.e., reactive, proactive) through empathy facets; and how emotion regulation contributes to these relations, above and beyond empathy. The sample was comprised of 368 university students. Findings indicated that largely all psychopathic traits were negatively related to empathy; however, the traits diverged in association to emotion dysregulation. Path modeling indicated that impulsive-antisocial psychopathic traits exerted positive indirect effects on proactive and reactive aggression through different affective correlates (i.e., empathy, emotion dysregulation, respectively). Similarly, interpersonal-affective traits had indirect effects through affective correlates, but with some differential implications for increased proactive aggression through empathy and decreased reactive aggression through level of emotion dysregulation. In all, this study contributes to further conceptualization of affective correlates of psychopathic traits and towards understanding the contributions of empathy and emotion regulation to aggression in psychopathy. This understanding may potentially inform efforts to reduce aggression among individuals with varying levels of psychopathic traits.