The Role of Tablet-Based Psychological Tasks in Risk Assessment [2017]

Risk assessment has become a prominent part of the criminal justice system in many jurisdictions, typically relying on structured questions and an interview. This approach, however, may not accurately assess certain psychological concepts correlated with reoffense, such as executive functioning, ability to plan, impulse control, risk-taking, aggression, and empathy. We hypothesized that using rapid-tablet-based neurocognitive tests would pay off in terms of objectivity, precision, and scalability when added to the existing risk assessment structure. We analyzed 240 observations from adult felony offenders from a large urban county in the South assessed by the Texas version of the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS) risk tool. We identified significant differences in impulse control, planning, and reactive aggression between offenders and reoffenders. By combining these variables with the Texas Risk Assessment System (TRAS), we yielded significant improvements in risk prediction. We hope this will provide new inroads for actuarial assessments of reoffense risk that incorporate direct measurements of individual decision making.

Pablo A. Ormachea, Brian K. Lovins, David M. Eagleman, Sasha Davenport, Anna Jarman, Gabe Haarsma

Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol 44, Issue 8, 2017