Deficits in Theory of Mind: a comparison between young offenders and non-offenders

Karin Spenser, Lucy Betts, Mani Das Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research suggests a lack of pro-social skills is characteristic of an antisocial or offending personality. It is therefore reasonable to assume that an inadequate understanding of another's mental state may contribute to antisocial or offending behaviour. Forty-six young-adult male offenders and a control completed measures to assess: Theory of Mind (ToM), empathic understanding (EU) and moral reasoning. Significant differences in the performance of young-adult offenders and the control group were detected in ToM, EU and moral reasoning with young-adult offenders scoring lower than the control group. A positive association was also found between ToM, EU and moral reasoning. These findings contribute to a further understanding of how individuals make sense of, and respond to, the social world around them. The ability to measure ToM, EU and moral reasoning and subsequently identify any specific deficits, as well as recognise the link between these three key skills, is not only useful for researchers but it will also allow practitioners to tailor existing (or develop new) interventions specific to the needs of an individual. This could be particularly useful in terms of recidivism when applied to those involved in antisocial or offending behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)632-647
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology Crime and Law
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


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