Antisocial behaviour and psychopathy: uncovering the externalizing link in the P3 modulation

Rita Pasion*, Carina Fernandes, Mariana R. Pereira, Fernando Barbosa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


In 2009, Gao and Raine's meta-analysis analysed P3 modulation over the antisocial spectrum. However, some questions remained open regarding the P3 modulation patterns across impulsive and violent manifestations of antisocial behaviour, phenotypic components of psychopathy, and P3 components. A systematic review of 36 studies was conducted (N = 3514) to extend previous results and to address these unresolved questions. A clear link between decreased P3 amplitude and antisocial behaviour was found. In psychopathy, dimensional approaches become more informative than taxonomic models. Distinct etiological pathways of psychopathy were evidenced in cognitive tasks: impulsive-antisocial psychopathic traits mainly predicted blunted P3 amplitude, while interpersonal-affective psychopathic traits explained enhanced P3 amplitude. Supporting the low fear hypothesis, the interpersonal-affective traits were associated with reduced P3 amplitude in emotional-affective learning tasks. From the accumulated knowledge we propose a framework of P3 amplitude modulation that uncovers the externalizing link between psychopathy and antisocial behaviour. However, the main hypotheses are exploratory and call for more data before stablishing robust conclusions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-186
Number of pages17
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Aggression
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Conduct disorder
  • Dual-process model
  • Event-related potential
  • Externalizing
  • P3
  • Personality
  • Psychopathy
  • Review


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