Behavioral Sciences & the Law

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Volume 36 Issue 3 (May/June 2018), Pages 271-389

Criminal responsibility: Meta‐analysis and study space (pages 276-302)


While some correlates of criminal responsibility (CR) outcomes are consistent, others are not. Study‐level characteristics, such as sample selection, variability in the operational definition of insanity, or other unknown influences may explain discrepant findings. It is critical to systematically consolidate and assess the literature in order to guide future work. We conducted the first meta‐analysis and study space analysis (see Malpass et al., ) in this area. 15 studies met inclusion criteria for the meta‐analysis, which encompassed 19,500 cases. Summary effects for psycholegal cases indicated that older age, female sex, educational attainment, and unemployment were associated with insanity. Those classified insane more often had psychiatric histories and psychotic disorders. Finally, individuals opined or found insane were less likely to have criminal histories but more likely to have been opined incompetent to stand trial in the past. Importantly, virtually all summary effects were impacted by study design. Study space analyses (N = 7) revealed a dearth of literature that thoroughly addressed theoretically important variables. Taken together, the project provides a comprehensive, empirical analysis of CR correlates and a systematic call for future research.

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