Friday, November 30, 2007

Pedophiles and Control Group

We noted a study a few days ago indicating that pedophile brains may be different, may have white matter (whatever that is) in some areas than brains of the non-pedophilic general population. Well, here’s a very good critique of that article that asks us to avoid jumping guns on the findings for a variety of reasons, including these that are most understandable to non-cog sci folks:

Now, a few things strikes [sic] me odd in this analysis and interpretation. First of all, why is the comparison group nonsexual offenders? After all, that the crime is of a sexual nature is absolutely central to the present question, and especially that the sexual offender has been interested in children. The obvious choice would be to compare paedophilic sexual offenders to sexual offenders who had adult victims (typically a male offending a woman). Here, the act of sexual offence is similar between the two groups, while the sexual “object” is the vital difference. In the present study, any significant difference could just as well be explained by the nature of the crime as the sexual inclination of the subjects. It’s a classic case of poor control of confounding variables.

The whole thing is worth your time just as how good critique of scientific studies should go, not just as a speed bump to the start of profiling and then dealing with certain types of offenders differently based on presumed genetic and subsequent physiological differences.

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