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Clin Psychol Sci. 2015 Jan 1;3(1):45-57.

Altering the Cognitive-Affective Dysfunctions of Psychopathic and Externalizing Offender Subtypes with Cognitive Remediation.

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Yale University, Psychology Department ; University of Wisconsin-Madison, Psychology Department.
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Psychology Department.


Cognitive remediation is a treatment approach with the potential to translate basic science into more specific, mechanism-based interventions by targeting particular cognitive skills. The present study translated understanding of two well-defined cognitive-emotion dysfunctions into novel deficit-matched interventions and evaluated whether cognitive remediation would demonstrate specific and generalizable change. Two antisocial-subtypes, individuals with psychopathy and externalizing traits, are characterized by cognitive-affective problems that predispose them to engage in significant substance abuse and criminal behavior, culminating in incarceration. Whereas individuals with psychopathy fail to consider important contextual information, individuals with externalizing traits lack the capacity to regulate affective reactions. Training designed to remedy these subtype-specific deficits led to improvement on both trained and non-trained tasks. Such findings offer promise for changing neural and behavioral patterns, even for what many consider to be the most recalcitrant treatment population, and presage a new era of translating cognitive-affective science into increasingly specific and effective interventions.

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