Criminal thinking in a Middle Eastern prison sample of thieves, drug dealers, and murderers

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Abstract

Purpose

The Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles (PICTS) has been applied extensively to the study of criminal behaviour and cognition. This study aimed to explore the psychometric characteristics (factorial structure, reliability, and external validity) of an Arabic version of the PICTS, to explore cross-cultural differences between a sample of Middle Eastern (Egyptian) prisoners and Western prison samples, and to examine the influence of type of crime on criminal thinking styles.

Method

A group of 130 Egyptian male prisoners who had been sentenced for theft, drug dealing, or murder completed the PICTS. Their scores were compared with the reported data of American, British, and Dutch prisoners.

Results

The Arabic PICTS showed scale reliabilities estimated by coefficient alpha comparable to the English version, and reliabilities estimated as test–retest correlations were high. Confirmatory factor analysis showed that the PICTS subscale scores of Egyptian prisoners best fitted a two-factor model, in which one dimension comprised mollification, entitlement, super optimism, sentimentality, and discontinuity, and the second dimension reflected the thinking styles of power orientation, cut-off and cognitive indolence. Observed levels of thinking styles varied by type of crime, specifically among prisoners sentenced for theft, drug dealing, and murder. Cultural differences in criminal thinking styles were also found, whereby the Egyptian prisoners recorded the highest scores in most thinking styles, while American, Dutch, and English prisoners were more comparable to each other.

Conclusions

This study provides one of the first investigations of criminal thinking styles in a non-Western sample and suggests that cross-cultural differences in the structure of these thinking styles exist. In addition, the results indicate that criminal thinking styles need to be understood by the type of crime for which a person has been sentenced.

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