Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Ellen W. Leen-Feldner

Committee Member

Ana J. Bridges

Second Committee Member

Lindsay S. Ham


Biological challenge, Boldness, CO2, Fearlessness, Psychopathy, Psychophysiology


Psychopathy is a constellation of maladaptive interpersonal, affective, and behavioral features, including grandiosity, manipulativeness, emotional detachment, and impulsivity (Hare, 2003). Fearlessness, immunity to stress, self-assurance, and social dominance are considered to be adaptive features of psychopathy. Patrick and colleagues (2009) sought to reconcile differences between opposing conceptualizations of psychopathy by formulating a triarchic model of the condition. One core construct in this model, boldness, captures an ability to remain calm in the face of threat, an appetite for dangerous or risky activities, and an increased tolerance for uncertainty and danger. Boldness is believed to originate from differences in the brain’s defensive systems involved in the detection of threat and represents a phenotypic expression of fearlessness. Two principal problems in studies on psychopathy and fearlessness are the use of varying operationalizations of fear and an overreliance on non-laboratory-based methods to assess it. The current study examined boldness in relation to anticipatory anxiety and real-time fear in response to a CO2-enriched air challenge. It was hypothesized that boldness scores would relate negatively to (a) anticipatory anxiety ratings before the breathing challenge, (b) fear ratings taken midway through the challenge procedure, and (c) mean heart-rate midway through the challenge. Additionally, it was hypothesized that total boldness scores would relate negatively to STAI and BIS scores, and would be unrelated to PHQ-9 scores. As predicted, boldness related negatively to behavioral inhibition and state anxiety, although it also was unexpectedly linked to depressive symptoms. However, boldness was unrelated to anticipatory anxiety, fear ratings, and mean heart rate. The current study suggests boldness, as measured by the Boldness Inventory, is unrelated to psychological or physiological response to the air breathing challenge. Reasons for the unanticipated pattern of findings are discussed.