Behavioral Sciences & the Law

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Volume 37 Issue 4 (July 2019), Pages 3-468

Technological advances in the assessment of impulse control in offenders: A systematic review (pages 435-451)

  • Author(s): Lana Vedelago, Michael Amlung, Vanessa Morris, Tashia Petker, Iris Balodis, Kaitlyn McLachlan, Mini Mamak, Heather Moulden, Gary Chaimowitz, James MacKillop
  • Published 03 Jul 2019
  • DOI: 10.1002/bsl.2420

Abstract Deficits in impulse control have been linked to criminal offending, risk of recidivism, and other maladaptive behaviours relevant to the criminal justice system (e.g. substance use). Impulse control can be conceptualized as encompassing the broad domains of response inhibition and impulsive/risky decision‐making. Advancements in technology have led to the development of computerized behavioural measures to assess performance in these domains, such as go/no‐go and delay discounting tasks. Despite a relatively large literature examining these tasks in offenders, findings are not universally consistent. This systematic review aims to synthesize the literature using computerized neurocognitive tasks to assess two domains of impulse control in offenders: response inhibition and impulsive/risky decision‐making. The review included 28 studies from diverse geographic locations, settings, and offender populations. The results largely support the general conclusion that offenders exhibit deficits in impulse control compared with non‐offenders, with studies of response inhibition more consistently reporting differences than studies using impulsive and risky decision‐making tasks. Findings are discussed in the context of contemporary neuroimaging research emphasizing dysfunction in prefrontal cortex as a key contributor to impulse control deficits in offenders.

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