Abstract copyright data collection owner.The aim of the project was to provide objective measures of the neurocognitive profiles of sex offender to determine how they differ in terms of traits associated with psychopathy and anxiety. The measures used focused on tracking eye movements when making judgments about emotional facial expressions and the use of personality inventories for scoring psychopathic traits and social anxiety traits. Participants included sex offenders serving custodial sentences and comparison groups including violent offenders, intimate partner offenders, as well as non-offender samples of both undergraduate students and members of the local community.
Sexual offenders can be categorised in terms of whether they commit their offences against adult women or children. However, this simple categorisation does not necessarily reflect the underlying psychological characteristics of individuals who commit sexual offences. It has been hypothesised that individuals who perpetrate rape of woman have high psychopathic traits whereas many, but not all, of those who offend against children have strong paedophilic tendencies. Moreover, it has been postulated that sexual offenders with high psychopathic traits may have emotional deficits relating to fear whereas paedophilic tendencies maybe associated with social anxiety problems. However, much of the current theorizing is based on data derived from self report measures which suffer from a lack of objectivity. This project aims to address this problem by using experimental techniques to explore the cognitive profiles of offenders who have committed different types of sexual crime. The work will focus on assessing whether i) the ability to recognise fearful facial expressions is specifically impaired in those who perpetrate sexual offences against women, as such deficits have been reported in diagnosed psychopaths, and ii) those with apparent paedophilic tendencies show difficulties in disengaging attention from emotionally significant stimuli as such problems are associated with anxiety.