Doctors with psychopathic tendencies are less willing to treat patients who are in pain, concludes research out of UBCO in Kelowna.
The researcher, Kimberley Kaseweter, PhD., Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia (Okanagan) gave resident physicians tests to determine the level of psychopathic that they exhibit.
Psychopathy is a diagnosis given to people who show manipulative and antisocial behaviour, callousness, remorselessness and occasionally violence.
The disorder impacts approximately one per cent of the population, but is not a clear-cut diagnosis.
Kaseweter explained that some people may have a tendency towards psychopathy without meeting all of the criteria required for a diagnosis.
Typically, the people who exhibit psychopathic traits have a reduced ability to interpret emotion and a lack of empathy, explained Kaseweter.
Through her research, she determined that not only are those with psychopathic traits unable to understand people’s emotions, they are also unable to recognize when people are in pain.
She had a group of undergraduate students complete tests to assess the levels of psychopathic traits that they exhibit. She found that the more traits they exhibited, the less accurate they were when interpreting pain on the faces of others.
She then had resident physicians complete the same test of psychopathy and found that those with high levels of psychopathic traits were less willing to spend time treating patients in pain.