Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Johanna Glimmerveen (Donders series 506)

29 June 2021

Promotor: prof. dr. R.P.C. Kessels
Co-promotors: dr. I.A. Brazil, dr. J.H.R. Maes

In the eye of the beholder: An individualised approach towards (mal)adaptive behaviour in psychopathy

Psychopathy is an important risk factor for committing severe violent crimes and it is associated with a high risk of reoffending after punishment or psychiatric treatment. Experimental research on the responsible neurocognitive mechanisms is often focused on how associations between behaviour and its consequences, such as reward and punishment, are established and adapted. The research presented in this doctoral thesis maps which types of rewards are considered attractive by different groups of forensic psychiatric patients. Subsequently, these rewards and their subjective values, adapted to the preferences of individual patients, were used in experimental tasks, showing that the use of subjective rewards can improve the learning of new associations in psychopathic offenders. However, no effects of subjective reward value were found with respect to adapting already established associations, nor to foregoing short-term gains in favour of longer-term rewards. These results indicate that the use of rewards with sufficient subjective value may promote adaptive behaviour in individuals with psychopathy, but more research is needed to target the mechanisms involved in such behavioural change.