skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 78383 Find in a Library
Title: Imprisonment and Cognitive Impairment
Journal: Journal of Clinical Psychology  Volume:37  Issue:2  Dated:(April 1981)  Pages:418-422
Author(s): J Goethals
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 5
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The hypothesis that imprisonment leads to cognitive impairment was tested by means of a review of empirical studies and administration of a progressive matrices test to 90 inmates of 3 Belgian prisons.
Abstract: Studies of persons in settings of psychological and social isolation, such as concentration camps, psychiatric hospitals, and Antarctic stations, have reported different forms of impairment induced by monotony and other conditions of deprivation. However, only 10 studies have been conducted in prison environments. The best-known of these studies were conducted on English prisoners and suggested that while there was no decline in general intellectual capacity with increasing length of imprisonment, there was a reduction in perceptual-motor speed. The present study's subjects were all male, but varied in age, type of crime, and length of incarceration. Seven subjects were eliminated from the study because they refused to cooperate. Regression analysis showed that intellectual functioning as measured by the tests was not influenced by the length of incarceration. Thus, the statement that incarceration leads to cognitive impairment was not supported. It was concluded that incarceration is associated only with a decline in perceptual-motor speed and that incarceration results in increased verbal functioning because the prison forms a training environment for verbal skills. However, these conclusions must be viewed with caution, since it is unclear whether the recorded effects are temporary and whether the assumption that deterioration is a linear process is appropriate. Furthermore, the study ignored the influence of arousal intensity and the complexity of the tasks used in intelligence quotient tests and overlooked possible individual differences underlying the average scores. Tables and a list of 11 references are provided.
Index Term(s): Belgium; Educational levels; Effects of imprisonment; Intelligence Quotient (IQ)
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.