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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Scottish prisoners ‘have problems judging facial expressions’

Embargoed until 23 June 2010

People serving prison sentences have a lower than average ability to read facial expressions or guess what others are thinking and feeling, a survey of Scottish prisoners has found.

Dr Louise Robinson, of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, told the International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists that new research has shown that significantly more prison inmates were deficient in social cognition skills compared to a control group of non-prisoners.

She told delegates: “We have shown that people who are sent to prison find it difficult to make judgements as to whether someone is angry or not.”

Researchers screened 2,457 prisoners in prisoners across Scotland, and interviewed 128 of the prisoners. Dr Robinson said: “We don’t know whether this deficit is something people are born with or, as is more likely, is the result of a range of problems that we found that prisoners suffered – such as having a difficult childhood, drug problems and blows to the head’.

The study also revealed showed that autism was no more common in prison populations than in non-prison populations.

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International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Edinburgh, 21-24 June 2010.


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