First Advisor

Softas-Nall, Basilia

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Date Created



College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Applied Psychology and Counselor Education, APCE Student Work


The inability to decode emotional cues has been associated with violence in men. The purpose of the study was to learn more about the connection between emotion recognition accuracy as it related to self-identified empathy in adult men convicted of a domestic violence offense while accounting for any significant cognitive deficits and demographic factors. Domestically violent (n = 35) and non-violent (n = 35) men were asked to label pictures of facial emotion at different levels of intensity (30.0%, 40.0%, 60.0%, 70.0%, and 100.0%). In addition, they were given the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), a brief empathy measure; the General Ability Measure for Adults (GAMA), a brief cognitive assessment; the Life Events Checklist-5 (LEC-5), a trauma questionnaire; and a demographic questionnaire. The domestic violence offenders were found to have a significant deficit in identifying the emotions of sadness and fear and identifying emotions at 40.0% and 60.0% intensity. They were found to have a significantly higher self-reported empathy rating on the IRI subscale of perceived distress, but no significant differences were found between domestic violence offenders and non-violent controls on empathy subscales of perspective taking, empathic concern, and fantasy. There was no significant difference in cognitive ability between the domestic violence offenders and the control participants. When highest education level attained and family annual income were accounted for, they were found to have a significant impact on the ability to accurately identify emotions. When lifetime trauma history and chemical dependence history were accounted for, they were found to have no statistically significant impact on ability to accurately identify emotions. Clinical implications included a greater focus on applied emotion recognition and emotion regulation training for domestic violence offenders. Methodological implications and future research directions were discussed.


Cognitive Ability, Domestic Violence, Emotion Recognition, Empathy


250 pages

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