Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Shields, Grant

Committee Member/Reader

Zabelina, Darya

Committee Member/Second Reader

Villaseñor, Amelia

Committee Member/Third Reader

Davidson, Fiona


Psychopathy is characterized as an individual exhibiting callousness, grandiosity, lack of empathy, and manipulative behavior towards others over a long period of time. Given these symptoms, psychopathy is associated with a markedly increased risk of arrest and imprisonment. Together, these findings highlight the importance of understanding the cause(s) of psychopathy, as doing so may help to develop treatments or preventative interventions. Prior work has suggested that structural abnormalities in the amygdala may play a role in clinical psychopathy; however, it is less clear whether amygdala abnormalities exist on a continuum of psychopathic traits. In this study, I aimed to determine whether psychopathic traits are associated with smaller amygdala volume. To this end, twenty-nine participants were recruited for this study. Each participant completed a short self-report assessment of psychopathic traits, after which time they entered the MRI scanner. Drawing on some prior clinical psychopathy work, I predicted that greater psychopathic traits would relate to smaller volume in the amygdala. In contrast to my hypothesis, however, I found a positive association between psychopathic traits and right amygdala volume. These results suggest potential differential associations with specific amygdala nuclei, or differential associations of amygdala volumes with psychopathic traits versus clinical symptoms - either of which point to important avenues for future research.


psychopathy, psychopathic traits, MRI, structural imaging, amygdala