Implicit self-criminal cognition and its relation to criminal behavior

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5 Scopus citations


Three studies adopted implicit social cognition theory and methodology to understand criminal cognition outside of conscious awareness or control, specifically by testing whether individual differences in implicit associations between the self and the group criminals are related to criminal behavior. A Single Category Implicit Association Test measured self-criminal associations across 3 adult samples-2 from Newark, New Jersey, a high-crime United States city, and an adult national sample from the United States. Then, all participants reported their criminal behavior in 2 cross-sectional design studies and 1 longitudinal design study. Consistent with an additive model of implicit and explicit cognition, studies generally demonstrated that strong implicit self-criminal associations increased the odds of committing a criminal act, even after accounting for explicit self-criminal cognition, past criminal behavior, and/or criminal-related demographics. This research suggests that implicit self-criminal associations serve as a cognitive marker for criminal behavior. Furthermore, the present research calls into question criminal justice policies and practices that assume that criminal behavior is exclusively driven by criminal intent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-519
Number of pages13
JournalLaw and Human Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


  • Criminal identity
  • Criminal justice system
  • Implicit social cognition


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