Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1501–1507 | Cite as

Assessment of Implicit Sexual Associations in Non-Incarcerated Pedophiles

  • Matthijs L. van LeeuwenEmail author
  • Rick B. van Baaren
  • Farid Chakhssi
  • Marijke G. M. Loonen
  • Maarten Lippman
  • Ap Dijksterhuis
Original Paper


Offences committed by pedophiles are crimes that evoke serious public concern and outrage. Although recent research using implicit measures has shown promise in detecting deviant sexual associations, the discriminatory and predictive quality of implicit tasks has not yet surpassed traditional assessment methods such as questionnaires and phallometry. The current research extended previous findings by examining whether a combination of two implicit tasks, the Implicit Association Task (IAT) and the Picture Association Task (PAT), was capable of differentiating pedophiles from non-pedophiles, and whether the PAT, which allows separate analysis for male, female, boy and girl stimulus categories, was more sensitive to specific sexual associations in pedophiles than the IAT. A total of 20 male self-reported pedophiles (10 offender and 10 non-offenders) and 20 male self-reported heterosexual controls completed the two implicit measures. Results indicated that the combination of both tasks produced the strongest results to date in detecting implicit pedophilic preferences (AUC = .97). Additionally, the PAT showed promise in decomposing the sexual associations in pedophiles. Interestingly, as there was an equal distribution of offenders and non-offenders in the pedophile group, it was possible to test for implicit association differences between these groups. This comparison showed no clear link between having these implicit sexual associations and actual offending.


Pedophilia Sexual orientation Sexual deviance Sex offenders Implicit associations 


  1. Asendorpf, J. B., Banse, R., & Mucke, D. (2002). Double dissociation between implicit and explicit personality self-concept: The case of shy behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 380–393.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Babchishin, K. M., Nunes, K. L., & Hermann, C. A. (2013). The validity of Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures of sexual attraction to children: A meta-analysis. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 487–499.Google Scholar
  3. Banse, R., & Clarbour, J. (2007). Indirect assessment of sexual preferences in child molesters: Viewing time outperforms IAT. Paper presented at the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences, Geissen, Germany.Google Scholar
  4. Banse, R., Seise, J., & Zerbes, N. (2001). Implicit attitudes towards homosexuality: Reliability, validity, and controllability of the IAT. Zeitschrift fur Experimentelle Psychologie, 48, 145–160.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bargh, J. A., Chaiken, S., Govender, R., & Pratto, F. (1992). The generality of the attitude activation effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 893–912.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Blanchard, R., Klassen, P., Dickey, R., Kuban, M. E., & Blak, T. (2001). Sensitivity and specificity of the phallometric test for pedophilia in nonadmitting sex offenders. Psychological Assessment, 13, 118–126.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, A. S. (2006). Developing an Implicit Association Test for forensic use: Discriminating pedophiles from other offenders. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Cardiff University.Google Scholar
  8. Brown, A., Gray, N. S., & Snowden, R. J. (2009). Implicit measurement of sexual preferences in child sex abusers: Role of victim type and denial. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 21, 166–180.Google Scholar
  9. Cai, H. J., Sriram, N., Greenwald, A. G., & McFarland, S. G. (2004). The Implicit Association Test’s D measure can minimize a cognitive skill confound: Comment on McFarland and Crouch (2002). Social Cognition, 22, 673–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chaplin, T. C., Rice, M. E., & Harris, G. T. (1995). Salient victim suffering and the sexual responses of child molesters. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 63, 249–255.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Dawson, D. L., Barnes-Holmes, D., Gresswell, D. M., Hart, A. J. P., & Gore, N. J. (2009). Assessing the implicit beliefs of sexual offenders using the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 21, 57–75.Google Scholar
  12. de Fockert, J. W., Rees, G., Frith, C. D., & Lavie, N. (2001). The role of working memory in visual selective attention. Science, 291, 1803–1806.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. de Houwer, J. (2002). The Implicit Association Test as a tool for studying dysfunctional associations in psychopathology: Strengths and limitations. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 33, 115–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dotsch, R., & Wigboldus, D. H. J. (2008). Virtual prejudice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 1194–1198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dovidio, J. F., Kawakami, K., & Gaertner, S. L. (2002). Implicit and explicit prejudice and interracial interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 62–68.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Egloff, B., & Schmukle, S. C. (2002). Predictive validity of an Implicit Association Test for assessing anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1441–1455.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Fazio, R. H., Sanbonmatsu, D. M., Powell, M. C., & Kardes, F. R. (1986). On the automatic activation of attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 229–238.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Fiedler, K., & Bluemke, M. (2005). Faking the IAT: Aided and unaided response control on the Implicit Association Tests. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 27, 307–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gannon, T. A., Rose, M. R., & Williams, S. E. (2009). Do female child molesters hold implicit associations between children and sex? A preliminary investigation. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 15, 55–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gawronski, B., LeBel, E. P., & Peters, K. R. (2007). What do implicit measures tell us? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 181–193.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Gray, N., Brown, A. S., MacCullouch, M. J., Smith, J., & Snowden, R. J. (2005). An implicit test of the associations between children and sex in pedophiles. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 114, 304–308.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Green, D. M., & Swets, J. A. (1966). Signal detection theory and psychophysics. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  23. Greenberg, D., Bradford, J., Firestone, P., & Curry, S. (2000). Recidivism of child molesters: A study of victim relationship with the perpetrator. Child Abuse and Neglect, 24, 1485–1494.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, J., & Schwartz, J. (1998). Measuring implicit differences in social cognition: The Implicit Association Test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1464–1480.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Greenwald, A. G., Nosek, B. A., & Banaji, M. R. (2003). Understanding and using the Implicit Association Test: An improved scoring algorithm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 197–216.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Greenwald, A. G., Poehlman, T. A., Uhlmann, E. L., & Banaji, M. R. (2009). Understanding and using the Implicit Association Test: III. Meta-analysis of predictive validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 17–41.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Hanson, R. K., & Morton-Bourgon, K. E. (2005). The characteristics of persistent sexual offenders: A meta-analysis of recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 1154–1163.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Harris, G. T., Rice, M. E., Chaplin, T. C., & Quinsey, V. L. (1999). Dissimulation in phallometric testing of rapists’ sexual preferences. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 28, 223–232.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Henson, D. E., & Rubin, H. B. (1971). Voluntary control of eroticism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 4, 38–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hermans, D., de Houwer, J., & Eelen, P. (1994). The affective priming effect: Automatic activation of evaluative information in memory. Cognition and Emotion, 8, 515–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Inquisit 1.33 [Computer software]. (2003). Seattle. WA: Millisecond Software.Google Scholar
  32. Jenkins, R., Lavie, N., & Driver, J. (2003). Ignoring famous faces: Category-specific dilution of distractor interference. Perception & Psychophysics, 65, 298–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kalmus, E., & Beech, A. R. (2005). Forensic assessment of sexual interest: A review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10, 193–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kim, D. Y. (2003). Voluntary controllability of the Implicit Association Test (IAT). Social Psychology Quarterly, 66, 83–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kingston, D. A., Firestone, P., Moulden, H. M., & Bradford, J. M. (2007). The utility of the diagnosis of pedophilia: A comparison of various classification procedures. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 423–436.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Lavie, N., Ro, T., & Russell, C. (2003). The role of perceptual load in processing distractor faces. Psychological Science, 14, 510–515.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Laws, D. R. L., & Gress, C. L. Z. (2004). Seeing things differently: The viewing time alternative to penile plethysmography. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 9, 183–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Laws, D. R., & Rubin, H. B. (1969). Instructional control of an autonomic response. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 2, 93–99.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Marshall, W. L., & Fernandez, Y. M. (2000). Phallometric testing with sexual offenders: Limits to its value. Clinical Psychology Review, 20, 807–822.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Nosek, B. A., Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (2005). Understanding and using the Implict Association Test: II. Method variables and construct validity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 166–180.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Nunes, K. L., Firestone, P., & Baldwin, M. W. (2007). Indirect assement of cognitions of child sexual abusers with the Implicit Association Test. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34, 454–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Prentky, R., Knight, R. A., & Lee, A. F. S. (1997). Risk factors associated with recidivism among extrafamilial child molesters. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 141–149.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Price, S., & Hanson, R. K. (2007). A modified Stroop task with sexual offenders: Replication of a study. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 13, 203–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Proulx, J., McKibben, A., & Lusignan, R. (1996). Relationships between affective components and sexual behaviours in sexual aggressors. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 8, 279–289.Google Scholar
  45. Quinsey, V. L., & Chaplin, T. C. (1988). Preventing faking in phallometric assessments of sexual preference. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 528, 49–58.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Seto, M. C. (2004). Pedophilia and sexual offenses against children. Annual Review of Sex Research, 15, 321–361.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Seto, M. C. (2008). Understanding pedophilia and sexual offending against children: Theory, assessment, and intervention. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Smith, P., & Waterman, M. (2004). Processing bias for sexual material: The emotional Stroop and sexual offenders. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 16, 163–171.Google Scholar
  49. Snowden, R. J., Craig, R. L., & Gray, N. S. (2011). Indirect behavioral measures of cognition among sexual offenders. Journal of Sex Research, 48, 192–217.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. van Leeuwen, M. L., & Macrae, C. N. (2004). Is beautiful always good? Implicit benefit of facial attractiveness. Social Cognition, 22, 637–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ward, T., Hudson, S. M., Johnston, L., & Marshall, W. L. (1997). Cognitive distortions in sex offenders: An integrative review. Clinical Psychology Review, 17, 479–507.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Ward, T., & Keenan, T. (1999). Child molesters’ implicit theories. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 14, 821–838.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ward, T., Keenan, T., & Hudson, S. M. (2000). Understanding cognitive, affective, and intimacy deficits in sexual offenders: a developmental perspective. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 5, 41–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthijs L. van Leeuwen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Rick B. van Baaren
    • 1
    • 2
  • Farid Chakhssi
    • 3
  • Marijke G. M. Loonen
    • 1
  • Maarten Lippman
    • 1
  • Ap Dijksterhuis
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Social and Cultural Psychology, Behavioural Science InstituteRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Communication SciencesRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Forensic Psychiatric Centre ‘de Rooyse Wissel’VenrayThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations