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Investigation of the hostile attribution bias toward ambiguous facial cues in antisocial violent offenders

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Aggressive individuals exhibit a strong tendency to attribute hostile intent to the behavior of others, which may lead to provocation and aggravation of socially inappropriate reactions. Limited research has investigated the hostile attribution bias in the perception of facial affect. This study examined a hostile response bias to emotionally ambiguous faces in a population of 55 incarcerated antisocial violent offenders as compared to matched control subjects. Results suggest that aggression is associated with a strong preference to interpret ambiguous stimuli containing proportions of an angry expression as hostile, while there was no evidence for a generally biased interpretation of distress cues under conditions of uncertainty. Thus, the tendency to misinterpret nonverbal cues in social interactions may at least partly underlie aggressive–impulsive behavior in susceptible individuals.

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Correspondence to Michael Schönenberg.

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Schönenberg, M., Jusyte, A. Investigation of the hostile attribution bias toward ambiguous facial cues in antisocial violent offenders. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 264, 61–69 (2014).

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