The Effect of Sexual Priming Cues on Emotional Recognition in Nonviolent Child Sexual Abusers A Preliminary Study

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This article describes a study that used a computer-based task to investigate the emotional recognition skills of child sexual abusers. The experiment consisted of two phases (prime and probe) and measured both response time and error rates to facial expressions. The priming phase of the experiment consisted of the presentation of short phrases via computer of either sexual or neutral content. The probe phase of the experiment consisted of the presentation of adult facial expressions depicting either the emotion fear or surprise. Results showed child sexual abusers to be slightly less accurate overall. Furthermore, contrary to prediction, the effect of sexual priming appeared to make child sexual abusers actually better at recognizing fearful faces (p =.055). This result is discussed in relation to current victim empathy theory and treatment implications for sexual offenders.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-304
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2009


  • priming tasks, sexual offenders, reaction time, emotional recognition