Differences in executive functioning between violent and non-violent offenders

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

A growing body of neuropsychological and neurobiological research shows a relationship between functioning of the prefrontal cortex and criminal and violent behaviour. The prefrontal cortex is crucial for executive functions such as inhibition, attention, working memory, set-shifting and planning. A deficit in these functions – a prefrontal deficit – may result in antisocial, impulsive or even aggressive behaviour. While several meta-analyses show large effect sizes for the relationship between a prefrontal deficit, executive dysfunction and criminality, there are few studies investigating differences in executive functions between violent and non-violent offenders. Considering the relevance of identifying risk factors for violent offending, the current study explores whether a distinction between violent and non-violent offenders can be made using an extensive neuropsychological test battery.

Male remand prisoners (N = 130) in Penitentiary Institution Amsterdam Over-Amstel were administered an extensive neuropsychological test battery (Cambridge Automated Neuropsychological Test Battery; CANTAB) measuring response inhibition, planning, attention, set-shifting, working memory and impulsivity/reward sensitivity.

Violent offenders performed significantly worse on the stop-signal task (partial correlation r = 0.205, p = 0.024), a task measuring response inhibition. No further differences were found between violent and non-violent offenders. Explorative analyses revealed a significant relationship between recidivism and planning (partial correlation r = −0.209, p = 0.016).

Violent offenders show worse response inhibition compared to non-violent offenders, suggesting a more pronounced prefrontal deficit in violent offenders than in non-violent offenders.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Medicine
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2017

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Neuropsychological Tests
Executive Function
Prefrontal Cortex
Short-Term Memory
Prisoners
Impulsive Behavior
Reward
Meta-Analysis
Inhibition (Psychology)
Research

Keywords

  • CANTAB
  • executive function
  • inhibition
  • neuropsychology
  • offenders
  • prison

Cite this

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title = "Differences in executive functioning between violent and non-violent offenders",
abstract = "A growing body of neuropsychological and neurobiological research shows a relationship between functioning of the prefrontal cortex and criminal and violent behaviour. The prefrontal cortex is crucial for executive functions such as inhibition, attention, working memory, set-shifting and planning. A deficit in these functions – a prefrontal deficit – may result in antisocial, impulsive or even aggressive behaviour. While several meta-analyses show large effect sizes for the relationship between a prefrontal deficit, executive dysfunction and criminality, there are few studies investigating differences in executive functions between violent and non-violent offenders. Considering the relevance of identifying risk factors for violent offending, the current study explores whether a distinction between violent and non-violent offenders can be made using an extensive neuropsychological test battery. Male remand prisoners (N = 130) in Penitentiary Institution Amsterdam Over-Amstel were administered an extensive neuropsychological test battery (Cambridge Automated Neuropsychological Test Battery; CANTAB) measuring response inhibition, planning, attention, set-shifting, working memory and impulsivity/reward sensitivity. Violent offenders performed significantly worse on the stop-signal task (partial correlation r = 0.205, p = 0.024), a task measuring response inhibition. No further differences were found between violent and non-violent offenders. Explorative analyses revealed a significant relationship between recidivism and planning (partial correlation r = −0.209, p = 0.016). Violent offenders show worse response inhibition compared to non-violent offenders, suggesting a more pronounced prefrontal deficit in violent offenders than in non-violent offenders.",
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Differences in executive functioning between violent and non-violent offenders. / Meijers, J.; Harte, J.M.; Meynen, G.; Cuijpers, Pim.

In: Psychological Medicine, 08.02.2017.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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