Pathological risk-propensity typifies Mafia members' cognitive profile

Sci Rep. 2020 May 22;10(1):8559. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-65486-z.


Since the recruitment process, Italian Mafias impose on their members a strict code of conduct. These rigid rules regulate their private and public behavior, implying a total adhesion to the group's values. Such juridical and social aspects substantially distinguish organized crime (OC) from ordinary crime. It is still unknown whether these two categories of offenders also show distinctive cognitive traits. Here we investigated the frontal lobe cognitive functions of 50 OC prisoners from the Mafia and 50 non-OC prisoners based on the performance of 50 non-prisoner controls. We found that OC members were more likely to show pathological risk-propensity than non-OC prisoners. We interpret this finding as the result of the internal dynamics of Mafia groups. OC is a worldwide threat, and the identification of cognitive traits behind criminal behavior will help in devising focused prevention policies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't