Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Distorted Cognitions



Also, see The Eikonophobiacs Are On the Move - Again and Beginning To Understand.

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Gateway to offending behaviour: permission-giving thoughts of online users of child sexual exploitation material 

Danielle G. Kettleborough & Hannah L. Merdian

Received 19 Nov 2015, Accepted 30 Aug 2016, Published online: 18 Oct 2016 


"The endorsement of permission-giving thoughts, or so-called cognitive distortions, has been discussed as a contributing factor in sexually abusive behaviour.

The current study set out to explore the thinking patterns of offenders who have used/downloaded child sexual exploitation material (CSEM), based on a survey of professionals.

A thematic analysis elicited four overarching themes, namely the Perceived Nature of Children (perception of children portrayed in CSEM, as well as children in general), Non-sexual Engagement with CSEM (motivating factors that are not inherently sexual in nature), Denial of Harm (perception of the level of harm caused by CSEM), and Expression of a General Sexual Preference (general interest in deviant sexual behaviour).

These themes aid to explore the differences and similarities between contact and non-contact offenders and to improve the understanding of the role of permission-giving thoughts in this typology of offending."

Results are discussed in terms of their theoretical significance and future implications.

KEYWORDS: Child pornography, child sexual exploitation material, cognitive distortions, sex offending, internet sex offending,

D. Kettleborough @DGKettle

Hannah Merdian @HlMerdian


A fundamental attribution error? Rethinking cognitive distortions

Shadd Maruna & Ruth E. Mann

First published: September 2006


"The notion of ‘cognitive distortion’ has become enshrined in the offender treatment literature over the last 20 years, yet the concept still suffers from a lack of definitional clarity.

In particular, the umbrella term is often used to refer to offence-supportive attitudes, cognitive processing during an offence sequence, as well as post-hoc neutralisations or excuses for offending.

Of these very different processes, the last one might be the most popular and problematic. Treatment programmes for offenders often aim to eliminate excuse-making as a primary aim, and decision-makers place great weight on the degree to which an offender “takes responsibility” for his or her offending. Yet, the relationship between these after-the-fact explanations and future crime is not at all clear.

Indeed, the designation of post hoc excuses as criminogenic may itself be an example of fallacious thinking. After all, outside of the criminal context, post hoc excuse-making is widely viewed as normal, healthy, and socially rewarded behaviour.

We argue that the open exploration of contextual risk factors leading to offending can help in the identification of criminogenic factors as well as strengthen the therapeutic experience. Rather than insist that offenders take “responsibility” for the past, we suggest that efforts should focus on helping them take responsibility for the future, shifting the therapeutic focus from post hoc excuses to offence-supportive attitudes and underlying cognitive schemas that are empirically linked to re-offending." 

DOI: 10.1348/135532506X114608

Examining The Term 'Cognitive Distortions' 

"In short,

the concept of cognitive distortion has suffered both from an absence of empirical support and also from a lack of clarity in definition.

Over time, this lack of clarity has become increasingly problematic. Authors have broadened the concept of cognitive distortion in different ways; for example, using the term to describe general antisocial thinking (Ward, 2000).

In clinical practice, the term cognitive distortion has become confused with any causal explanation for offending given by offenders, no matter how valid the explanation might be (Mann & Webster, 2001).

Moreover, the cognitive distortion label is used to group together far different phenomena such as attitudes, cognitive products and post hoc excuses.

Hence, we will avoid the slippery term cognitive distortions altogether in our review below, and concentrate only on excuse making [...] We explicitly exclude attitudes which are supportive of offending, such as pro-violence attitudes or (in the case of sex offending) beliefs that child victims enjoy sex with adults or are not harmed by it."

"In this paper, we have suggested that some of the common assumptions about post hoc excuses (sometimes called cognitive distortions) are worthy of reinvestigation.

In particular, we point to a large body of literature that indicates excuse making is normal and frequently healthy, and we make the uncontroversial point that behaviours frequently do have external causes.

We suggest that, just because many offenders seek to excuse their offending by appealing to external, unstable causes, this does not justify the assumption that such an attributional style is risky. Such an assumption may mean that those concerned with understanding offending, whether through research or clinical practice, pay too little attention to other, perhaps more important, cognitive phenomena.

As always, more research is needed, but future work should maintain a more open, unbiased mind in regard to offender accounts and seek to avoid misattributions of labels such as cognitive distortion."

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