Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles

The Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles (PICTS) is an 80-item self-report inventory designed to measure eight thinking styles presumed to reinforce, support, and maintain a criminal lifestyle. The eight thinking styles assessed by the PICTS are Mollification, Cutoff, Entitlement, Power Orientation, Superoptimism, Sentimentality, Cognitive Indolence, and Discontinuity. The PICTS also contains two validity scales—Confusion and Defensiveness; four factor scales—Problem Avoidance, Interpersonal Hostility, Self-Assertion/Deception, and Denial of Harm; two content scales—Current and Historical; two composite scales—Proactive Criminal Thinking (P) and Reactive Criminal Thinking (R); and a general score covering all 64 criminal thinking items— General Criminal Thinking (GCT).

Description and Development

There were 32 items on the PICTS when it first appeared in 1989, 4 for each thinking style. In 1990, the PICTS was expanded to 40 items with the addition of two validity scales, and the ratings went from 3 points (agree, uncertain, disagree) to 4 points (strongly agree, agree, uncertain, disagree). In 1992, the number of items per scale was raised to 8 to produce an inventory of 80 items. Norms were established by administering this third version of the PICTS to 150 minimum-security male federal inmates, 150 medium-security male federal inmates, 150 maximum-security male federal inmates, and 227 state and federal female inmates. The PICTS validity scales were successfully revised in 2001, leading to the fourth and current version of the PICTS, in which the content (phrasing) and position (item number) of the 64 thinking-style items and 8 retained validity scale items remained constant across Versions 3.0 and 4.0. Consequently, research studies and norms from Version 3.0 should be applicable to Version 4.0.

Hierarchical Organization

Factor analytic research has revealed one-, two-, four-, and eight-factor solutions for the PICTS. Like the criminal thinking it is designed to measure, the PICTS is factorially complex and hierarchically organized. The eight PICTS scales are at the bottom of the hierarchy. The P and R scales are in the middle of the hierarchy, with the Mollification, Entitlement, and Superoptimism thinking-style scales loading heaviest on P and the Cutoff, Cognitive Indolence, and Discontinuity thinking-style scales loading heaviest on R. At the top of the hierarchy, P and R merge to form general criminal thinking, as measured by the GCT.

Reliability

Internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha coefficient) is .54 to .79 for the PICTS scales, .80 to .91 for the P and R scales, and .93 for the GCT. Test-retest reliability (Pearson r) after 2 weeks is .73 to .93 on the thinking-style scales, .88 to .96 on the P and R scales, and .85 to .93 on the GCT. Test-retest reliability (Pearson r) after 12 weeks is .47 to .86 on the thinking-style scales, .70 to .88 on the P and R scales, and .84 to .85 on the GCT.

Validity

The content validity of the PICTS is supported by the fact that inmates familiar with the lifestyle concept participated in the measure’s development and furnished the content for several PICTS items. Furthermore, the eight thinking styles believed to support a criminal lifestyle are assessed on the PICTS.

In early studies evaluating the predictive validity of the PICTS, it was determined that several of the PICTS thinking-style scales, Cutoff and Entitlement in particular, predicted future disciplinary problems in prison and subsequent arrests in the community. More recent research has shown that higher-level PICTS scales— such as the P and R, and GCT—are incrementally valid predictors of future disciplinary problems and recidivism when age, prior arrests, and popular non-self-report rating scales such as the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version are controlled.

Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses have been used to support the construct validity of the PICTS as a factorially complex and hierarchically organized construct with both general (GCT) and specific (eight thinking-style scales) features. Furthermore, the pattern of convergent and discriminant correlations between the PICTS thinking-style scales and various measures of personality indicate that the PICTS correlates better with similar constructs (antisocial personality) than with dissimilar constructs (depression, anxiety, schizophrenia).

Future Research

One direction for future research is testing the cross-national validity of the PICTS. Promising results have been reported in studies from Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia. Although the PICTS has been translated into a number of different languages and dialects, there have been no studies to date examining its utility in non-English-speaking populations.

A second direction for future PICTS research is using it to measure change in offenders enrolled in psychological programming. Although studies indicate that several PICTS scales appear to change over the course of intervention, longitudinal studies are required to ascertain whether a change on the PICTS reflects a meaningful change in thinking and behavior and whether or not this has a direct bearing on future recidivism.

Recent studies have shown that the latent structure of criminal thinking, like the latent structure of psychopathy and antisocial personality, is dimensional rather than categorical in nature. What needs to be determined is whether the dimensionality observed on the PICTS is the same or different from the dimensional structure of psychopathy and antisocial personality.

References:

  1. Blud, L., Travers, R., Nugent, F., & Thornton, D. (2003). Accreditation of offending behaviour programmes in HM Prison Service: “What Works” in practice. Legal and CriminologicalPsychology, 8, 69-81.
  2. Palmer, E., & Hollin, C. (2003). Using the Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles with English prisoners. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 8, 175-187.
  3. Walters, G. D. (1995). The Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles: Part I. Reliability and preliminary validity. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 22, 307-325.
  4. Walters, G. D. (2002). The Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles (PICTS): A review and meta-analysis. Assessment, 9, 283-296.
  5. Walters, G. D., & Mandell, W. (2007). Assessing the incremental validity of the Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles (PICTS) and Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL: SV) with disciplinary report count data. Law and Human Behavior, 31, 141-157.

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