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An Investigation of Scripts and Dysfunctional Expertise in Male Firesetters

Butler, Helen (2018) An Investigation of Scripts and Dysfunctional Expertise in Male Firesetters. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:71756)

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Abstract

Firesetting theory and research is growing. Recent advances include: the development of a comprehensive multifactorial theory of adult firesetting and the development of specialist group therapy that appears successful at reducing firesetting risk (Gannon, Ó Ciardha, Doley, & Alleyne, 2012; Gannon et al., 2015). However, there remains a persistent over reliance on the concept of fire interest to explain acts of deliberate firesetting, despite such a phenomena not always being present.

The importance of cognition in the facilitation and reinforcement of criminal behaviour has been considered in numerous offender populations. Coupled with this is an emerging body of literature suggesting that experienced offenders display a certain level of expertise in their criminal behaviour. The purpose of this thesis was to apply, and investigate, the concepts of offending expertise along with cognition-specifically the concept of scripts-to firesetting behaviour for the first time.

Study 1 sought to gain initial exploratory qualitative information, through conducting semi-structured interviews with incarcerated firesetters, regarding whether firesetters hold scripts and expertise with regards to firesetting. Utilising the findings from Study 1, and existing research evidence, a preliminary conceptual framework of firesetting scripts and expertise was outlined. Study 2 sought to empirically investigate the hypothesised firesetting scripts and expertise, and their relationship to the established concept of fire interest. Results suggested that, relative to comparison groups, firesetters hold scripts about fire and demonstrate firesetting expertise. Furthermore, the extent to which one identifies with fire was shown to predict firesetting scripts and both identification with fire and serious interest in fire was shown to predict firesetting expertise. Studies 3a and 3b sought to investigate firesetting expertise further, through investigating two important facets of expertise, (1) availability of firesetting heuristics, and (2) a superior ability to automatically recognise offence-related cues. Results suggested that firesetters did appear to both hold heuristics about their firesetting and demonstrate an awareness of offence-related cues, relative to offender controls. Finally, Study 4, sought to replicate the findings from Studies 1, 2, 3a, and 3b utilising a community based sample of un-apprehended firesetters. Results failed to confirm that un-apprehended firesetters demonstrate expertise. However, un-apprehended firesetters were found to be more likely, than community comparisons, to hold scripts revolving around the themes of fire being a powerful messenger and fire being a way of gaining attention. Furthermore, un-apprehended firesetters identified with fire more than community comparisons. Future research and practical implications of the proposed firesetting scripts and expertise are considered, along with limitations.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Gannon, Theresa
Uncontrolled keywords: Firesetting, Scripts, Expertise, Cognition, Arson
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2019 17:10 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Jan 2022 00:00 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/71756 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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