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Differentiating Tower of Hanoi performance: Interactive effects of psychopathic tendencies, impulsive response styles, and modality.

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Christina L. Salnaitis

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Previous research has demonstrated that performance on the computerized Tower of Hanoi is lower than performance on the manual Tower of Hanoi. The present study was conducted to elucidate potential factors that contribute to performance differences across modalities. Personality characteristics related to psychopathy and impulsive response styles were hypothesized to be correlates of poor performance on the computerized version of the Tower of Hanoi, which is a problem-solving task that requires working memory, planning, and inhibition. Eighty-four college students from a mid-sized university participated. Participants were grouped as low, middle, or high psychopathy based on their total scores on the Psychopathic Personality Inventory. A 2 (Modality) x 3 (Psychopathy) analysis of covariance, controlling for visuospatial working memory, yielded a significant interaction, in which the high psychopathy group did not differ in performance across modality, whereas the low and middle psychopathy groups performed more poorly on the computerized version. Subsequent analyses on reaction time and accuracy for the computerized modality indicated that a reflective, methodical approach to the computerized task was more productively utilized in the low psychopathy group, whereas the fast and accurate approach was more productively utilized in the high psychopathy group. These results suggest that individuals with elevated psychopathic tendencies within a normal population are not necessarily deficient in problem-solving performance on the Tower of Hanoi. Impulsive responding is associated with poor performance in the computerized version of the Tower of Hanoi, irrespective of psychopathic tendencies. Caution should be exercised in interpreting scores on the computerized Tower of Hanoi because the psychometric properties required for comparability with the manual version have not been sufficiently demonstrated.


Abstract only. Full-text article is available through licensed access provided by the publisher. Published in Applied Neuropsychology, 18, 37-46. Members of the USF System may access the full-text of the article through the authenticated link provided.




Psychology Press