Motivated Self-Deception in Child Molesters

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Biases, child molester, cognitive distortions, denial, heuristics, motivation, resistance, self-deception, sexual offender

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It is widely accepted that child molesters suffer from cognitive distortions in their thinking. In this article, the concept of motivated self-deception is introduced to explain how these distortions are likely to develop from normal cognitive processes. These processes include cognitive heuristics and optimistic biases that are magnified and embellished because of deviant motivations. Several different everyday heuristics and patterns of self-deception are described, with examples of how the resulting biased information is activated and progressively organized by molesters throughout the abuse chain to accomplish specific goals. A framework is provided that distinguishes between two major groups of self-deception based on the set of functions intrinsic to each. This is followed by a discussion of how it is possible for molesters to truly deceive themselves. Finally, several treatment suggestions are provided, with an emphasis on the implications for managing resistance and denial as well as fostering a sense of responsibility within molesters.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, v. 8, issue 1, p. 89-111