Genetic and environmental relations of executive functions to antisocial personality disorder symptoms and psychopathy.
Meta-analytic findings suggest that antisocial behavior, broadly defined, may relate to a Common Executive Function (EF) factor that captures covariance across response inhibition, working memory updating, and mental set shifting tasks. However, it is unclear whether this common factor, which is isomorphic with individual differences in response inhibition, accounts for all of the EF variance in antisocial behavior and psychopathy, or if they also relate to updating- and shifting-specific abilities. Moreover, findings that antisocial behavior and lower cognitive ability are particularly associated with the psychopathy dimension reflecting impulsivity and irresponsibility, compared to the dimension reflecting affective-interpersonal functioning, raise the possibility that EF relates to the variance shared between the impulsive-irresponsible psychopathy dimension and antisocial personality disorder. We examined these questions in a young adult twin sample (N = 765) with measures of multiple EF latent variables, Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy (LSRP) Primary (affective-interpersonal) and Secondary (impulsive-irresponsible) scales, and antisocial personality disorder symptoms (ASPDsx). Phenotypically, higher ASPDsx and LSRP Secondary psychopathy, but not LSRP Primary psychopathy, were associated with lower Common EF. Moreover, both psychopathy dimensions were negatively correlated with Updating-Specific ability, which was unrelated to ASPDsx. Results from twin models indicated that the association between LSRP Secondary psychopathy and ASPDsx was due to both genetic and nonshared environmental influences; however, Common EF's association with ASPDsx was primarily genetic, whereas its association with LSRP Secondary psychopathy had a significant environmental component. Thus, the interrelations among these constructs may reflect heterogeneous etiological pathways.