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Keywords:

  • schizophrenia;
  • violence;
  • criminal behavior;
  • emotion recognition

Abstract

Social psychological research underscores the relation between aggression and emotion. Specifically, regulating negative affect requires the ability to appraise restraint-producing cues, such as facial signs of anger, fear and other emotions. Individuals diagnosed with major mental disorders are more likely to have engaged in violent behavior than mentally healthy members of the same communities. We examined whether violent and criminal behavior in men with schizophrenia is related to emotion recognition abilities.

Forty-one men with schizophrenia underwent a computerized emotion discrimination test presenting mild and extreme intensities of happy, sad, angry, fearful and neutral faces, balanced for gender and ethnicity. History of violence was assessed by the Life History of Aggression Scale and official records of arrests. Psychopathology was rated using the Positive and Negative Symptom Scale.

Criminal behavior was associated with poor emotion recognition, especially for fearful and angry facial expressions. History of aggression was also associated with more severe positive symptoms and less severe negative symptoms. These findings suggest that misinterpretation of social cues such as angry and fearful expression may lead to a failure in socialization and adaptive behavior in response to emotional situation, which may result in a higher number of criminal arrests. Aggr. Behav. 32:1–8, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.