Heartless and cunning? Intelligence in adolescents with antisocial behavior and psychopathic traits

Jennifer L. Allen, Jacqueline Briskman, Sajid Humayun, Mark R. Dadds, Stephen Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (SciVal)


Clinical theory predicts that individuals high in psychopathic traits possess average or above average intelligence; however findings in adult and child samples have been mixed. The present study aimed to investigate (1) the relationship between verbal and nonverbal intelligence and the three dimensions of psychopathy (callous-unemotional (CU) traits, narcissism, impulsivity); and (2) whether these dimensions moderate the association between verbal and nonverbal intelligence and the severity of antisocial behavior. Participants were 361 adolescents aged 9-18 years (68% boys) and their parents, drawn from four samples with different levels of risk for antisocial behavior. Families were disadvantaged and 25% were from an ethnic minority. Verbal intelligence was unrelated to parent-reported CU traits, narcissism or impulsivity after controlling for gender, sociodemographic disadvantage, sample, antisocial behavior and hyperactivity. Narcissism, but not CU traits or impulsivity, was significantly related to lower nonverbal IQ. None of the three psychopathic trait dimensions moderated the relationship between verbal or nonverbal IQ and antisocial behavior. CU traits, narcissism, hyperactivity and inclusion in the very high or high risk samples were significantly related to more severe antisocial behavior. Results contradict the widely held view that psychopathic traits are associated with better than average verbal or nonverbal intelligence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1147-1153
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number3
Early online date5 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2013


  • Callous-unemotional
  • Cognitive ability
  • Performance IQ
  • Psychopathy
  • Verbal IQ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'Heartless and cunning? Intelligence in adolescents with antisocial behavior and psychopathic traits'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this