Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Psychology

Supervisor

Drs. Peter Hoaken and Graham Reid

Abstract

Crime has immense social and economic impact. Understanding and treating the underlying factors of criminal behavior is essential to creating an overall safer society. Deficits in executive functioning — inhibition, cognitive shifting, and working memory — have been implicated as a factor contributing to criminal behavior. Method: Manuscript 1 examines the relationship between executive dysfunction and severity and frequency of criminal behavior of forensic psychiatric patients, individuals who committed crime under the influence of a severe mental disorder. Manuscript 2 compares the executive functioning of two unique criminal populations — forensic psychiatric patients and correctional offenders. Results: Poorer executive functioning is related to more in-custody aggression and a violent index offence. Forensic psychiatric patients display pervasive executive dysfunction and abnormal executive function profiles; they also have significantly poorer executive function performance than correctional offenders. Conclusions: Executive functions are a potential treatment target and could influence risk and release decisions.


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