Psychopathy: Relations with Three Conceptions of Intelligence

Ashley L. Watts, Randall T. Salekin, Natalie Harrison, Abby Clark, Irwin D. Waldman, Michael J. Vitacco, Scott O. Lilienfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Psychopathy is often associated with heightened intelligence in the eyes of clinicians and laypersons despite mixed research support for this possibility. We adopted a fine-grained approach to studying the relations among psychopathy and multiple indices of intelligence, including both cognitively based intelligence (CBI) and emotional intelligence (EI), in a large sample of undergraduates (N = 1,257, 70% female, 82% Caucasian). We found no clear support for marked associations between psychopathy and CB I measures, with the magnitudes of these relations being small. With the exception of the dimensions of Fearless Dominance (FD) and Coldheartedness (C), psychopathy dimensions were negatively associated with (EI). In contrast, we found some support for the hypothesis that intelligence served as a protective factor against antisocial behavior among individuals with high levels of psychopathy. On balance, our findings show weak relations between psychopathy and intelligence, suggesting that the link between them may be less robust than theoretical models portray, at least among undergraduates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-279
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • antisocial behavior
  • emotional intelligence
  • intelligence
  • personality
  • psychopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Psychopathy: Relations with Three Conceptions of Intelligence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this