Risky Business: Psychopathy, Risky Decision-Making, and Financial Outcomes Open Access

Smith, Sarah Francis (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/c821gk59w?locale=en


Psychopathy, or psychopathic personality, is a condition characterized by interpersonal features such as superficial charm, affective features such as lack of empathy, and behavioral features such as poor impulse control and antisocial behaviors (Hare, 1991/2003). As psychopathy is increasingly recognized as a multifaceted, dimensional construct (e.g., Benning et al., 2003; Walter et al., 2007), examination of the condition's implications for everyday behavior becomes more important. Specifically, psychopathic features such as boldness and disinhibition may bear important implications for risk-taking relevant to real-world outcomes such as financial behaviors. The present study sought to (a) examine the relationship between psychopathy and financial outcomes, (b) clarify the role of risk-taking as an intermediate pathway between psychopathy and adaptive and maladaptive financial behaviors, and (c) examine the impact of interaction effects between components of psychopathy (e.g., boldness and disinhibition) and financial behaviors. Using a sample of North American participants from the online community (N = 500), I found evidence of differential financial correlates across components of psychopathy. Specifically, components such as boldness were largely associated with adaptive financial behaviors, whereas disinhibition was exclusively associated with maladaptive financial behaviors. Although boldness and disinhibition were both associated with risk-taking in some capacity, these effects did not mediate the relationship between psychopathy components and financial behaviors. Moreover, the results of the present study revealed no evidence of moderation between disinhibition and boldness in predicting financial behaviors. Although the results of the present study were mixed, they make valuable contributions to a growing body of literature examining the implications of psychopathy for everyday life. The present study provides continued evidence for the existence of potentially adaptive manifestations of certain psychopathic personality features and highlights important conceptual issues, such as the need for continued conceptualization of psychopathy as a multifaceted construct.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Conceptual Issues In Psychopathy 2
The Low Fear Hypothesis 6
Configural and Channeling Models of Psychopathy 9
Psychopathy and Decision-Making 11
Present Study 21
Method 23
Participants 23
Psychopathy Measures 24
Risk Perception Measures 28
Risk Behavior Measures 29
Financial Measures 33
Intellectual Ability Measures 37
Design and Procedure 38
Results 40
Zero-Order Correlations Among Psychopathy Measures 40
Zero-Order Correlations Among Risk Indicators 40
Zero-Order Correlations Among Financial Indicators 42
Zero-Order Correlations Among Psychopathy and Risky Decision-Making 43
Zero-Order Correlations Among Psychopathy and Financial Outcomes 46
Summary of Zero-Order Correlational Findings 51
Mediation and Moderation Analyses 51
Discussion 54
Exploring the Low Fear Hypothethis: Psychopathy and Risky Decision-Making 55
Psychopathy and Financial Outcomes: Understanding Successful Psychopathy Through Configural Models 60
"The Right Stuff": Understanding Boldness, Risky Decision-Making, and Implications for Everyday Life 65
Limitations and Future Directions 68
References 82
Table 1 FBM Factor Loadings Based On Principal Components Analysis 108
Table 2 Means and SDs of Primary Measures and Subscales 111
Table 3 Correlations Among Psychopathy Measure Total Scores and Higher Order Factors 112
Table 4 Correlations Among PPI-R Subscales 113
Table 5 Correlations Among Risk Perception Measures and Risk Behavior Tasks 114
Table 6 Correlations Among Financial Outcome Indicators and Covariates. 115
Table 7 Correlations Among Psychopathy and Risk Perception Measures. 116
Table 8 Correlations Among Psychopathy and Risk Behavior Measures. 117
Table 9 Correlations Among Psychopathy and Financial Measures. 118
Table 10 Correlations Among Psychopathy and Financial Measures Controlling For Financial Literacy 119
Table 11 Correlations Among Psychopathy and Financial Measures Controlling For SES. 12 0
Table 12 Correlations Among Psychopathy and Financial Measures Controlling for Abstract Reasoning. 121
Table 13 Correlations Among Psychopathy and Financial Measures Controlling For Verbal Reasoning 122
Table 14 Correlations of PPI-R Subscales and Risk Perception Measures. 123
Table 15 Correlations of PPI-R Subscales and Risk Behavior Measures. 124
Table 16 Correlations of PPI-R Subscales and Financial Measures. 125
Table 17 Summary of Mediation Analyses Conducted. 126
Table 18 Results of Boldness Mediation Anlayses. 127
Table 19 Results of Disinhibition Mediation Analyses. 12 8
Figure 1. Disinhibition and Financial Behaviors Mediated by Risk Behaviors 129
Figure 2. Boldness and Adaptive Financial Behaviors Mediated by Risk Perception 130
Figure 3. Boldness and Financial Behaviors Moderated by Disinhibition. 131

About this Dissertation

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files