Trait psychopathy, emotional intelligence, and criminal thinking: Predicting illegal behavior among college students

Rebecca L. Fix, Spencer T. Fix

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Research focusing on individuals high on trait psychopathy remains limited. Higher trait psychopathy is associated with lower levels of emotional intelligence and increased participation in illegal behavior. Additionally, research has confirmed significantly higher levels of criminal thinking and lower levels of empathy in the incarcerated psychopathic population. However, the relationships between trait psychopathy and criminal thinking have not been researched in the community or college population. To test for such differences, questionnaires containing relevant measures were administered to 111 college students. Results indicated that higher levels of trait psychopathy were significantly related to less caring for others, intrapersonal understanding, and general mood, and greater interpersonal functioning and stress management. Furthermore, trait psychopathy was a strong predictor of violent, property, drug, and status offenses. Power-oriented criminal thinking was also predictive of violent behaviors, and entitlement predicted property offending. Results suggest emotional intelligence is important for predicting psychopathy, and trait psychopathy is a strong predictor of all types of illegal behaviors among the non-incarcerated population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-188
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes



  • Criminal thinking
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Illegal behavior
  • Psychopathy
  • Trait psychopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law

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