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Violent and nonviolent offenders: a comparison of neuropsychological functioning

22 December 2006


The current study investigated possible differences in the neuropsychological functioning of violent and nonviolent offenders. Measures assessing verbal learning and memory, verbal knowledge, attention and impulsivity, visual-spatial working memory, and planning abilities were administered to a group of minimum-security offenders classified as violent or nonviolent on the basis of their most severe conviction. Multivariate analysis of variance revealed no significant differences between the groups on any of the measures, indicating that violent and nonviolent offenders were cognitively similar within the domains of verbal intelligence and executive functioning. However, both groups performed in the clinically impaired range on a measure of sustained attention/vigilance, potentially mediated by a history of head injury, drug use, or Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder. These data suggest that interventions for offender rehabilitation may be most effective if the focus is on compensating for an inability to sustain attention/vigilance for the purposes of self-monitoring and self-regulation.


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