Processing of emotional faces in sexual offenders with and without child victims: an eye-tracking study with pupillometry

Steven M. Gillespie*, Ian J. Mitchell, Anthony R. Beech, Pia Rotshtein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Socio-affective dysfunction is a risk-factor for sexual offense recidivism. However, it remains unknown whether men who have sexually offended with and without child victims show differences in eye scan paths and autonomic responsivity while viewing facial expressions of emotion. We examined differences in accuracy of emotion recognition, eye movements, and pupil dilation responses between sex offenders with child victims, sex offenders without child victims, and a group of non-offenders living in the community. Sex offenders without child victims looked for longer at the eyes than sex offenders with child victims and non-offenders. Men without child victims also scored higher for psychopathy linked disinhibition, and these traits were associated with looking longer at the eyes of afraid faces. We found no evidence for group differences in accuracy, visual attention to the mouth, or pupil dilation responses. Our findings have implications for understanding the nature of socio-affective dysfunction in sexual offenders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108141
JournalBiological Psychology
Early online date24 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) [ ES/L002337/1 ]. The funder had no role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the article for publication.


  • Emotion recognition
  • Empathy
  • Eye movements
  • Pupil size
  • Victim age
  • Humans
  • Criminals
  • Male
  • Fear
  • Sex Offenses
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual
  • Eye-Tracking Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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