The role of affect in the estimation of risk

Blumenthal, Stephen, Huckle, Catherine, Czornyj, Roman, Craissati, Jackie and Richardson, Phil (2010) The role of affect in the estimation of risk. Journal of Mental Health, 19 (5). pp. 444-451. ISSN 0963-8237

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Background: Risk assessment decisions have profound consequences. The contribution of affect to decision making is well established in the psychology literature, but this body of knowledge has had little influence in the field of violence risk assessment. Aims: We sought to establish the relative contribution of actuarial and emotive information in determining risk ratings of violence. Method: In a repeated measures design, mental health professionals rated four vignettes according to perceived level of risk of violence. Vignettes were designed to contain information likely to maximize or minimize emotive and actuarial information. Results: Both actuarial and emotive factors contributed significantly to the rating of risk. However, emotive information had a far greater influence. Reasons given for ratings tended to relate to emotive factors. Conclusions: Despite the growth of actuarial knowledge amongst mental health professionals, clinicians tend to disregard this information and are heavily and disproportionately influenced by emotive material. This detracts from the accurate assessment of risk. Actuarial factors tend to have little appeal to clinicians. This may be attributable to their apparent lack of relevance to the clinical task. Further research on clinically meaningful psychological variables and their relation to the risk of enactment is required.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Risk Assessment
Subjects: Criminology > Forensic Psychiatry
Department/People: Adult and Forensic Services

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