Processing bias for aggression words in forensic and nonforensic samples

Paul Smith, Mitch Waterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


Presenting stimuli that are salient to their concerns produces particular patterns of avoidance or vigilance in both clinical and nonclinical populations. To date, no research has explored if this effect extends to forensic populations when presented with violently themed stimuli. Such material can be seen as potentially salient to those people who might habitually resort to aggression. To test this prediction, two studies (a dot-probe and emotional Stroop) examined the effect of presenting aggressively themed words to a group of offenders and undergraduates. Violent offenders (as classified by their index offence) demonstrated significant response biases to aggression words in both tests. This effect was also found in the aggressive undergraduates (as classified by anger scores on the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire). These data confirm the saliency of aggression words to aggressive individuals and suggest that these simple cognitive tests may offer a potential objective measure of assessment in forensic populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-701
Number of pages21
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2003
Externally publishedYes


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