A meta-analytic review of the relation between antisocial behavior and neuropsychological measures of executive function

Clin Psychol Rev. 2000 Jan;20(1):113-36. doi: 10.1016/s0272-7358(98)00096-8.


Previous narrative reviews of the relation between antisocial behavior (ASB) and neuropsychological tests of executive functioning (EF) have raised numerous methodological concerns and produced equivocal conclusions. By using meta-analytic procedures, this study attempts to remedy many of these concerns and quantifies the relation between ASB and performance on six reasonably well validated measures of EF. Thirty-nine studies yielding a total of 4,589 participants were included in the analysis. Overall, antisocial groups performed .62 standard deviations worse on EF tests than comparison groups; this effect size is in the medium to large range. Significant variation within this effect size estimate was found, some of which was accounted for by differences in the operationalizations of ASB (e.g., psychopathy vs. criminality) and measures of EF. Evidence for the specificity of EF deficits relative to deficits on other neuropsychological tasks was inconsistent. Unresolved conceptual problems regarding the association between ASB and EF tests, including the problem of localizing EF tests to specific brain regions, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / pathology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition
  • Conduct Disorder / psychology
  • Crime / psychology
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Violence / psychology