The ability to recognise the emotional states of those around us is a very useful tool which allows us to act appropriately in social situations. If this ability is impaired then it could lead to inappropriate reactions when dealing with others, this in turn could land us in hot water. An impairment like this has been suggested to explain the behaviour of delinquents, though it is unlikely to be a sole cause of antisocial behaviour.

A study published recently lends support to this hypothesis, published last month in the journal of  Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health (or CAPMH for short, catchy) the study looked at 24 Japanese young adults that were serving time in correction facilities (in Japan). Simply put the researchers compared these so-called delinquents with a control batch of young people (matched for age and gender), in the ability to correctly match an emotion to a facial expression. Six basic emotions were represented with 8 different pictures each, so participants had to match a total of 48 pictures.

The emotions covered were anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise, the prediction was that the incarcerated subjects would have difficulty interpreting some facial expressions and that this difficulty would skew the subjects towards misidentifying expressions as anger. This in fact did happen, the delinquent subjects actually identified disgust as anger more than the control group.

This interesting result is lessened in it’s impact somewhat due to the fact that the control group also made this mistake a large percentage of the time. This predilection in the delinquents however is an insight into how certain personalities might perceive some social situations as being more hostile than they really are. These personalities are also marked by being quick to anger and experiencing more intense anger than others so recognising how this occurs can be useful information in diffusing these situations and possibly diagnosis of individuals who might otherwise be labelled as simply “difficult”.

Tim Roth from the TV show <a href=