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Nadja Heyum

Nadja Heym

Associate Professor

School of Social Sciences

Staff Group(s)


Dr Nadja Heym is Associate Professor in Personality Psychology and Psychopathology. She is module leader of Personality, Personality Disorder & Violence (year 3), Psychopathology (year 3), and Conceptual Issues & Individual Differences (MSc/PGDip), and teaches on the psychometric sequence in Research Methods 2 (year 2). She also contributes to teaching in Studies in Legal Psychology and Applied Psychology of Digital Technology (Cyberpsychology MSc). In addition, she supervises undergraduate students in the Dark Traits project lab as well as postgraduate research projects in the fields of personality, psychopathology and cyberpsychology. She has several PhD students, and has won the NTSU SLTA Outstanding Postgraduate Research Supervisor Award in 2021.

Dr Nadja Heym is co-chair of the Affect, Personality and the Embodied Brain (APE) research group at NTU and the wider APE international network, which meets regularly for research seminars and organises an annual conference since 2020. She is also a member of the Aggression & Bullying and Cyberpsychology research groups.

Current PhD Candidates:

  • Nikki Stevenson: Developmental Trajectories and Manifestations of Empathy in the Presence of Dark Traits (PSY bursary 2022, DoS)
  • Monika Fleet: Psychopathy and Sadism: physiological, neurobiological and empathic responses to violence (VC bursary 2021, DoS)
  • Julia Ayache: Physiological Synchronisation in the sense of belonging in digital/virtual spaces (DTA Fellow, UniAlliance Cofund PhD, DoS)
  • Alexander Marshall: Delineating Unstable Emotional Personality Disorder from Complex PTSD (DPsych, Lead Supervisor)
  • Louise Wallace: Development of the Successful Psychopathy Scale (DoS)
  • Bradley Standen: Assessment of Threat Awareness and Response (NTU fully funded stipend, DoS)
  • Jennifer Firth: Reinforcement Sensitivity age trajectories and atypical development (PT, self-funded, DoS/PI)

Career overview

Dr Heym was awarded her PhD in 2009 from the University of Nottingham, and was employed there as a Research Coordinator on the IMAGEN project in the Brain and Body Centre. She subsequently also lectured Individual Differences, Social and Developmental Psychology in the School of Psychology. Dr Heym joined NTU in April 2014.

Research areas

Dr Heym's main research interests are within the area of individual differences, psychopathology and antisocial behaviour. She is an expert in dark personality traits (e.g., psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism, Sadism) and reinforcement sensitivity (RST). She studies the role of threat perception and empathy in aggression and internalising/externalising psychopathology across the lifespan. Her research aims to further our understanding of the neuropsychological mechanisms, such as punishment and reward sensitivity, goal conflict processing and behavioural inhibition deficits underpinning psychopathology and antisocial tendencies. She has published peer reviewed papers on threat processing, impulsivity and anxiety in psychopathology such as antisocial personality disorder/psychopathy, ADHD, depression and self-harm. Her research also focuses on the specific roles of affective and cognitive empathy deficits in the associations between maladaptive traits (e.g., Dark Triad/Tetrad, psychopathic/callous-unemotional traits) and different types of aggressive behaviour.

Dr Heym investigates these processes in the general and (sub-)clinical populations across the life-span (thus, in children, adolescents or adults) using cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, as well as various experimental paradigms in combination with psychophysiological and brain measures (e.g., heart rate variability, skin conductance response, EEG).

A second strand of her research focuses on intervention approaches to support vulnerable individuals. Dr Heym is interested in identifying the biochemical and neurophysiological mechanisms involved in psychological disorders (e.g., brain function, microbiota, inflammation) with the aim to develop and/or evaluate alternative interventions (e.g., Havening, bio/neurofeedback, pre/probiotic supplementation).

She is involved in several projects studying and developing online/digital and Virtual Reality (VR) interventions to support individuals with traumatic experiences, anxiety and depression. Dr Heym has been central to the creation and development of the VR laboratory in the School of Psychology by securing several equipment and research grants for her VR based projects. For example, her team developed and tested a VR Exposure Therapy for public speaking anxiety and social anxiety disorder, where they currently integrate multi-sensory biofeedback and VR relaxation training. She also supports the development of other digital applications for anxiety (e.g., Statefulness app in collaboration with Fujitsu). Another project developed and evaluated a VR Hazard Perception Test for Drivers (funded through Road Safety Trust, RAC and DVSA). Currently she investigates the impact of Biophilic design features in the environment on emotional wellbeing using VR technology (in collaboration with the School of Architecture Design). Dr Heym supervises MSc and PhD students interested in VR research and has established a VR research interest group across several departments at NTU.

Dr Heym is also involved in several projects looking at the impact of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) on children. In response to Covid, Dr Heym lead a project supporting a local organisation (Living Without Abuse) in developing a Service Provider Online Intervention Toolkit (SPOT) to support referred parents and children from DVA background. Related to this, she also investigates teachers' knowledge and confidence in recognising and reporting signs of child abuse to support the development of an online training module for teachers (through LWA). She was also involved in the ProChild Erasmus project that produced a country report on the signs of child abuse and neglect.

Aligned to her research interests, Dr Heym is a member of several international research consortiums, such as the

  • Imagen project - a large scale European project exploring reinforcement-related behaviour in normal brain function and psychopathology and the developmental trajectories of young people's mental health and wellbeing;
  • Centre for Health Innovation and Lifestyle Science (CHIL): An Integrated Mind-Brain-Body Approach to Health and Wellbeing (with Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand);
  • Cascade of Chaos project: antecedent conditions in the development of dark traits and antisocial behaviour (with University of Arizona, US)

Dr Heym is interested in supervising PhD students in any of the above areas.

Further information may be obtained by contacting Dr Heym directly or from the NTU Graduate School.

Dr Heym's research has been funded by DTA Alliance (as PI) and Road Safety Trust, RAC Foundation, DVSA, Royal Society of New Zealand, Erasmus+ KA2, as well as several NTU internal research funding streams. In the past, her research has also been supported by the British Psychological Society and BECTA.

External activity

  • Member of the BPS - British Psychological Society (designation: MBPsS) and the BPS Division of Forensic Psychology
  • Founding member of the BSPID - British Society for the Psychology of Individual Differences
  • Member of EAPP - European Association of Personality Psychology
  • Member of ISSID - International Society for the Study of Individual Differences
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)

Dr Heym also acts as a peer reviewer for a number of journals within the fields of personality and psychopathology, and has been grant reviewer for the ESRC.

Sponsors and collaborators

Current collaborators:

  • Prof Veena Kumari (Brunel University London, UK)
  • Prof Elaine Arnull (University of Wolverhampton)
  • Prof Vince Egan, Dr Claire Lawrence, Prof Eamonn Ferguson (University of Nottingham, UK)
  • Dr Patrícia Oliveira Silva (Human Neurobehavioral Laboratory, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Portugal)
  • Professor Aurelio Jose Figueredo (University of Arizona, US)
  • Professor Richard Siegert (Auckland University of Technology, NZ)
  • Dr Stefan Marks, Dr Andy Connor (Colab, Auckland University of Technology, NZ)
  • Dr Oleg Medvedev (University of Waikato, NZ)
  • Dr Guillaume Dumas (University of Montreal, CA)
  • Dr Eva Zysk (University of British Columbia, CA)
  • Dr Preethi Premkumar (London South Bank University, UK)
  • Dr Dean Fido (University of Derby, UK)
  • Dr Kevin Hochard (University of Chester, UK)
  • Prof David Brown, Mufti Mahmud (ISRG, NTU, UK)
  • Dr Kirsty Hunter (Nutrition & Sport Sciences, NTU, UK)

Current External Organisations

Dr Heym has also worked with a number of local schools in the past and external companies on a range of research projects.


Peer reviewed Papers / Articles

Standen, B., Firth, J., Sumich, A & Heym, N. (in press). The neural correlates of Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory: A systematic review of the (f)MRI literature. Psychology & Neuroscience, Special ed : APE2021

Sumich, A., Heym, N., Lenzoni, S. & Hunter, K. (2022). Gut microbiome-brain axis and inflammation in temperament, personality and psychopathology; In Special issue: Neurobiology of temperament, personality and psychopathology: what’s next? Current Opinions in Behavioural Sciences

Heym, N., Mudholkar, S., Sumich, A., & Kumari, V. (2021). The Mental Health Act reform – how proposed changes potentially impact personality disorder services. Forensic Science International: Mind & Law, Special ed: VSI: Sociopolitical Contexts, 2, 100062.

Heym, N., Kibowski, F., Bloxsom, C., Blanchard, A., Harpera, A., Wallace, L., Firth, J. & Sumich, A. (2021). The Dark Empath: characterising dark traits in the presence of empathy. Personality and Individual Differences. 169: 110172. ISSN 0191-8869

Batista, P., Oliveira-Silva, P., Heym, N., & Pintado, M.E. (in press). Neuropsychophysiological measurements as a tool for neuromodulator oral films evaluation. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research.

Bloxsom, C.A.J., Kibowski, F, Sumich, A., Firth, J., Egan, V., & Heym, N. (2021). Dark Shadow of the Self: How the Dark Triad and Empathy impact Parental and Intimate Adult Attachment Relationships in Women. Forensic Science International: Mind & Law, 2, 100045.

Bowe, M., Wakefield, J.R.H., Kellezi, B., Stevenson, C., McNamara, N., Jones, B., Sumich, A., & Heym, N. (2021). The mental health benefits of community helping during crisis: Coordinated helping, community identification and sense of unity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology.  ISSN 1052-9284

Fido, D., Heym, N., Bloxsom, C., Hunter, K., Gregson, M. & Sumich, A. (2021). Don't slap the fish: the relationship between dietary Omega-3 intake and physical aggression is mediated by motor inhibition in response to distressed faces. Personality and Individual Differences,169: 110062. SSN 0191-8869

Figueredo, A.J., Black, C.J., Patch E.A., Heym, N., et al.  (2021). The Cascade of Chaos: From Early Adversity to Interpersonal Aggression. Evolutionary Behavioural Sciences. Advance online publication. ISSN 2330-2925

Finaulahi, K.P., Sumich, A., Heym, N. & Medvedev, O.N. (2021). Investigating Psychometric Properties of the Self-Compassion Scale Using Rasch Methodology. Mindfulness. 12(3), 730-740. DOI 10.1007/s12671-020-01539-8.

Premkumar, P., Heym, N., Brown, D.J. et al (2021). The effectiveness of self-guided virtual-reality exposure therapy for public-speaking anxiety. Frontiers in Psychiatry, Research Topic: The Use of Virtual-Reality Interventions in Reducing Anxiety, 12:694610. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.694610

Rothwell, M., Fido, D. & Heym, N. (2021). Perceptions of adult and child sex offenders and rehabilitation as a function of education in forensic psychology, traditionalism and perpetrator sex. Forensic Science International: Mind & Law, 2, 100039.

Standen, B., Anderson, J., Sumich, A. & Heym, N. (2021). Effects of system and media driven immersive capabilities on presence and affective experience. Virtual Reality. Special Issue: Virtual Reality for therapy, psychological interventions, and physical and cognitive rehabilitation.

Heym, N., Heasman, B.C., Blanco, S.R., Wang, G., Siegert, R., Cleare., A., Hunter, K., Gibson, G.R., Kumari, V., & Sumich, A.L. (2019). The role of microbiota and inflammation in self-judgement and empathy: implications for understanding the gut-brain-microbiome axis in depression. Psychopharmacology (special ed.: Microbiome in psychiatry and psychopharmacology), 236, 5, 1459-1470.

Heym, N., Firth, J., Kibowski, F, Sumich, A., Egan, V., & Bloxsom, C.A.J. (2019). Empathy at the heart of darkness: empathy deficits that bind the Dark Triad and those that mediate indirect relational aggression. Frontiers: Psychiatry, section Social Cognition (special ed.: Empathy in a Broader Context: Development, Mechanisms, Remediation). 10: 95.

Hochard, K.D., Ashcroft, SP., Carroll, J., Heym, N, & Townsend, T. (2019). Exploring Thematic Nightmare Content and Associated Self-Harm Risk. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behaviour. 49 (1), 64-75.

Sumich, A.L., Anderson, J.D., Howard, C.J., Heym, N., Castro, A., & Belmonte, M.K. (2018) Reduction in lower alpha during Ganzfeld is associated with the production of images and trait positive schizotypy. Neuropsychologica, 121, 79-87.

Sumich A.L., Harris A., Whitford T., Hermens D.F., Anderson J., Heym N., Bloxsom, C., Kibowski, F. & Kumari, V. (2018). Neurophysiological Correlates of Excitement in Men with Recent-Onset Psychosis. Psychiatrica Danubina. 30, 1, 64-71.

Hochard, K. D., Heym, N. & Townsend, E. (2017). Investigating the interaction between sleep symptoms of arousal and acquired capability in predicting suicidality. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior. 47 (3), 370-381.

Hochard, K. D., Heym, N. & Townsend, E. (2016). The behavioral effects of frequent nightmares on objective stress tolerance. Dreaming, 26 (1), 42-49.

Heym, N., Kantini, E., Checkley, H., & Cassaday, H. (2015). Gray's revised Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory in relation to symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity and Tourette-like behaviors in the general population: Associations with. Personality and Individual Differences. 78, 24-28. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2015.01.012

Hochard, K.D., Heym, N., & Townsend, E. (2015). The Unidirectional Relationship of Nightmares on Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors. Dreaming.25(1), 44-58. doi:10.1037/a0038617

Heym, N., Kantini, E., Checkley, H., & Cassaday, H. (2014). Tourette-like behaviors in the normal population are associated with hyperactive/impulsive ADHD-like behaviors but do not relate to deficits in conditioned inhibition or response inhibition'. Frontiers in Psychology: Psychopathology. 5:946. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00946

Heym, N., Fergusson, E., & Lawrence, C. (2013). The P-psychopathy continuum: Facets of Psychoticism and their associations with psychopathic tendencies. Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 773-778. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2012.12.001

Heym, N., & Lawrence, C. (2010). The role of Gray's revised RST in the P–psychopathy continuum: The relationships of Psychoticism with a lack of fear and anxiety, and increased impulsivity. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 874-879. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2010.07.021

Heym, N., Ferguson, E., & Lawrence, C. (2008). An evaluation of the relationship between Gray's revised RST and Eysenck's PEN: Distinguishing BIS and FFFS in Carver and White's BIS/BAS scales. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 709-715. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2008.07.013

Book Chapters & Reports

Ayache, J., Heym, N., Sumich, A., Rhodes, D., Connor, A. M., & Marks, S. (2021). Feeling Closer Despite the Distance: How to Cultivate Togetherness Within Digital Spaces. In D. Wheatley, I. Hardill, & S. Buglass eds, Handbook of Research on Remote Work and Worker Well-Being in the Post-COVID-19 Era, IGI Global, p. 243-263.

Betts, L., Holland, D., Abell, L., Buglass, S., Dillon, G. & Heym, N. (2020). A Comprehensive View to Child Abuse: Situation Analysis and Modelling of Appropriate Strategies. ProChild Project, Erasmus Country Report for England.

Wilde, D., Heym, N., Williams, G. and Abell, L., (2019). Personality. Chapter in: P. Banyard, C. Norman, G. Dillon and B. Winder, eds., Essential psychology. London: Sage, pp. 517-539. ISBN 9781526456854

Hartnell-Young, E. & Heym, N. (2008). How mobile telephones help learning in secondary schools. Coventry: BECTA. (research report)

Selected conferences

Heym, N. et al. (2021). The Dark Empath: characterising dark traits in the presence of empathy. Paper presented at the British Society for the Study of Individual Differences annual conference. (17th June 2021)

Heym, N. et al. (2021). Stages of trauma recovery formulation informed Service Provider Online Intervention Toolkit for Children and Parents from Domestic Violence background. Symposium paper presented for the Interventions to Empower Women and Girls symposium at the NGO SW65 United Nations Virtual Forum. (25 March 2021).

Heym, N. et al. (2020). Psychopathology risk in children from domestic violence background / Stages of trauma recovery formulation pyramid: Mapping risk and needs to intervention. Symposium Papers presented for the Adverse childhood experiences and psychopathology symposium at APE2020 virtual conference. (23rd Sept 2020).

Heym, N. et al., (2019). Dark Relations: Early and late Attachment Anxiety and Avoidance in the Dark Triad, Paper presented at a symposium at the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences biannual meeting, Florence, 31st July 2019.

Heym, N. (2019). Sexual aggression, enjoyment and fantasies amongst the dark triad/tetrad traits, Symposium Paper presented at the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences biannual meeting, Florence, 30th July 2019.

Heym, N., Fleet, A., Sumich, A., Kaproski, A, & Arnull, E. (2018, Nov). UAVA Youth Violence study: Strengths & Difficulties in referred Youth. Paper presented for the Conceptualising Violence in the Family: the relationship with ACEs Discussion Panel at the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Advancing Theory, Policy and Practice International Conference, NTU, Nottingham, UK

Johnson D., & Heym, N (2018, June): The effectiveness of the Chromis programme for high risk Psychopathic Offenders. Paper presented at the Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference, Newcastle, UK.

Heym, N. (Symposium Organiser), Sumich, A.L., Egan, V., Blanchard, A., & Jonason, P. (2018, July). The Dark Arts of Love, Sex & War: Disentangling the Dark Triad Relationships. Symposium convened at the 19th European Conference on Personality Psychology (ECP), Zadar, Croatia.

Heym, N. (2018, July). Sexual and relational aggression amongst the Dark Triad traits and facets. Paper presented at the 19th European Conference on Personality Psychology (ECP), Zadar, Croatia.

Heym, N., Heasman, B.C., Blanco, S.R., et al. (2018, July). Understanding the role of microbiota-gut-brain axis and inflammation in depression through self-judgement and empathy. Paper presented at the 19th European Conference on Personality Psychology (ECP),  Zadar, Croatia.

Heym, N., Premkumar, P., Zysk, E., Sumich, A., & Brown, D. (2017, October). Self-guided virtual reality therapy for social anxiety: a possible waitlist primary care intervention. Paper presented at the International Society for Research on Internet Interventions meeting on 'Making e/mHealth Impactful in People's Lives, Berlin, Germany.

Firth, J., Heym, N, Sumich, A. et al. (2017, April). The good, the bad and the ugly: cognitive and affective empathy deficits in the Dark Triad, and their relationship to Indirect Relational Aggression. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the British Society for the Psychology of Individual Differences (BSPID), Kent, UK.

Heym, N. (2014). Associations of the PID-5 with the Psychoticism-psychopathy and schizotypy continuum in the normal population. Poster presented at 17th European Conference on Personality Psychology (ECP), 15th - 19th July, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Heym, N. (2013). Measuring Primary and Secondary Psychopathic Traits using the NEO-FFI: Development and validation of the PSPT scales. 17th Bienninal Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences (ISSID), 22nd - 25th July, Barcelona, Spain.

Heym, N., & Lawrence, C. (2013). The role of the rRST in the associations between callous-unemotional traits in risky decision making in children. Annual Meeting of the British Society for the Psychology of Individual Differences (BSPID), 12th April 2013, London, UK.

Heym, N. (2012). The role of Gray's revised Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (rRST) in the Psychopathy-Aggression relationship. 16th European Conference on Personality Psychology (ECP), 10th - 14th July, Trieste, Italy.

Heym, N. (2011). The role of Gray's revised Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory in the Psychoticism-Psychopathy continuum. 15th Bienninal Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences (ISSID), 25th - 28th July, London, UK.

Heym, N. (2010). The revised Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory in explicit and implicit threat processing. Inaugural Meeting of the British Society for the Psychology of Individual Differences (BSPID), 28th April 2010, Edinburgh, UK.

Symposium Convenor: Implications of Gray & McNaughton's revised Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory on the assessment of individual differences in approach and avoidance motivation and behaviour. 14th Bienninal Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences (ISSID), 18th - 22nd July 2009, Chicago, US.

Heym, N., & Lawrence, C. (2009). Distinguishing FFFS-Fear and BIS-Anxiety in Carver & White's BIS/BAS. Symposium presentation at the 14th Bienninal Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences (ISSID), 18th - 22nd July, Chicago, US.

Heym, N., & Lawrence, C. (2008). The role of Personality in Blame Attribution and Perceived Emotions for hypothetical incidences of victimisation. XXIX International Congress of Psychology, 24th July 2008, Berlin, Germany.

Heym, N., & Lawrence, C. (2007). The Relationship between Psychoticism, Empathy and Aggression. 13th Bienninal Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences (ISSID), 22nd - 27th July, Giessen, Germany.

Heym, N., & Lawrence, C. (2006). The relationship between Psychoticism, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness and their Role in Empathy and Victim Blaming. 26th International Congress of Applied Psychology, 16th - 21st July, Athens, Greece.

Heym, N., & Lawrence, C. (2006). Constructs Involved in Victim Blaming and their Link to Personality and Empathy. The British Psychological Society - Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference, 20th – 22nd June 2006, University of Central Lancashire, UK. (poster)

Invited talks & research seminars 

Heym, N. (2022, May).  At the Heart of Darkness: Disentangling empathic deficits and aggressive tendencies in the Dark Traits, Brunel University London, UK.

Heym, N. (2021, June). Psychopathy and Dark Traits. Invited talk at the Psychology Department, Università degli studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli, Italy.

Heym, N. (2018, Feb). Reinforcement Sensitivity in Psychopathology. Invited talk at the Psychology Department, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.

Heym, N. (2014). Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory in Threat Processing: Applications to Psychopathy. Specialist mental health services - Cambian Ansel, 18th August, Nottingham.

Heym, N. (2014). Personality models for the assessment of psychopathic traits and tendencies in the general population. Division of Psychology Internal Seminars, NTU, October, Nottingham.

See all of Nadja Heym's publications...

Press expertise

  • Personality psychology
  • Dark Triad/Tetrad Traits: Psychopathy, Narcissism, Machiavellianism, Sadism; personality disorders
  • Antisocial and aggressive behaviour
  • Risk & Resilience in mental health; Trauma, depression, anxiety
  • Reward processing and threat sensitivity (approach and avoidance motivation, fear and anxiety responses)
  • Impulsivity, sensation seeking and risk-taking behaviour
  • Virtual Reality and digital interventions for mental health

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