Assessing the impulse control of violent offenders using computer-based cognitive performance tasks

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Fox, Siobhán
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University College Cork
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The topic of this thesis is impulsivity. The meaning and measurement of impulse control is explored, with a particular focus on forensic settings. Impulsivity is central to many areas of psychology; it is one of the most common diagnostic criteria of mental disorders and is fundamental to the understanding of forensic personalities. Despite this widespread importance there is little agreement as to the definition or structure of impulsivity, and its measurement is fraught with difficulty owing to a reliance on self-report methods. This research aims to address this problem by investigating the viability of using simple computerised cognitive performance tasks as complementary components of a multi-method assessment strategy for impulse control. Ultimately, the usefulness of this measurement strategy for a forensic sample is assessed. Impulsivity is found to be a multifaceted construct comprised of a constellation of distinct sub-dimensions. Computerised cognitive performance tasks are valid and reliable measures that can assess impulsivity at a neuronal level. Self-report and performance task methods assess distinct components of impulse control and, for the optimal assessment of impulse control, a multi-method battery of self-report and performance task measures is advocated. Such a battery is shown to have demonstrated utility in a forensic sample, and recommendations for forensic assessment in the Irish context are discussed.
Impulse control , Impulsivity , Offenders , Cognitive performance tasks , Computerised assessment
Fox, S. 2013. Assessing the impulse control of violent offenders using computer-based cognitive performance tasks. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.