Int J Law Psychiatry 2012 Jan-Feb;35(1):57-61. Epub 2011 Dec 6.
Division of Psychiatry, School of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh, EH10 5HF, UK.
Background: Studies of antisocial populations have found that they show deficits in recognition of facial affect. Such deficits are also found in other populations with clinical conditions such as autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Aims: We aimed to investigate the hypothesis that facial affect recognition in the Scottish prison population would differ from matched controls. In addition, we aimed to investigate any relationship between facial affect recognition deficits and offence history.
Methods: A sample of serving convicted prisoners, drawn from a larger study, was assessed for ability to recognise facial affect. Other variables were also measured and a self-report offending history obtained.
Results: 127 prisoners were assessed in 11 prisons. Male prisoners were significantly worse than age, sex and IQ-matched controls at recognising negative facial emotions, specifically anger, fear, sadness and disgust. Within the sample of prisoners, deficits in fear recognition were associated with a history of previous prison sentences but not previous convictions. With respect to offending history, sex offenders were relatively better at recognising sadness and worse at recognising surprise than the other offenders. These relationships remain after controlling for IQ.
Conclusions: Scottish convicted prisoners show deficits in recognising negative facial emotions in a pattern consistent with other antisocial populations. We also demonstrated a relationship between particular patterns of deficit and types of offending history not previously described.