Neural Mechanisms of Criminal Decision Making in Adolescence: The Roles of Executive Functioning and Empathy
Eduard T. Klapwijk, Wouter van den Bos, and Berna Güroğlu
Adolescence is a time of change in which there is an increase and peak in criminal behavior. This chapter discusses the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying criminal decision making in adolescents. First, it provides a brief overview of the neural basis of decision making in typically developing adolescents. Second, it discusses studies that examine decision-making processes in delinquent and antisocial adolescents compared to their typically developing peers. The chapter focuses on executive functioning and empathy, and it is concluded that delinquent and antisocial adolescents mainly display affective deficits. This is manifested in risky and impulsive decisions and in impaired sensitivity to the distress and perspectives of other people. Finally, the chapter argues that future research on criminal decision making in adolescence could benefit from focusing on subgroups of offenders and from including environmental factors such as peer influence in experimental designs.