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Misrecognition of facial expressions in delinquents

Sato, W., Uono, S., Matsuura, N., & Toichi, M.


Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 3, 27

Previous reports have suggested impairment in facial expression recognition in delinquents. However, controversy remains with respect to how such recognition is impaired. To address this issue, we investigated facial expression recognition in delinquents in detail. We tested 24 male adolescent/young adult delinquents incarcerated in correctional facilities. We compared their performances with those of 24 age- and gender-matched control participants. Using standard photographs of facial expressions illustrating six basic emotions, participants matched each emotional facial expression with an appropriate verbal label. Delinquents were less accurate in the recognition of facial expressions that conveyed disgust than were control participants. The delinquents misrecognized the facial expressions of disgust as anger more frequently than did controls. These results suggest that one of the underpinnings of the delinquency might be impaired recognition of emotional facial expressions, with a specific bias toward interpreting disgusted expressions as hostile angry expressions.


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