Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Cognitive functioning and Self-reported self-efficacy in prisoners with a history of substance dependence

Merlino, Raileen (2017) Cognitive functioning and Self-reported self-efficacy in prisoners with a history of substance dependence. Professional Doctorate thesis, Murdoch University.

PDF - Whole Thesis
Download (2MB) | Preview


There is clear evidence that drug and alcohol dependence is associated with neurocognitive impairments (Kiluk, Nich & Carroll, 2011; Krämer, Kopyciok, Richter, Rodriguez-Fornells & Münte, 2011; Sofuoglu, Sugarman & Carroll, 2010; Umut et al., 2016). This is pertinent to the rehabilitation of prisoners with a history of drug and/or alcohol dependence, which is prevalent in this population.

In this dissertation, two studies were conducted. Study 1 examined cognitive and executive functioning of 115 WA prisoners with a history of drug and alcohol dependence using a battery of neuropsychometric tests. As prior research has demonstrated that age of first use, number of substances used, frequency and total years of drug use may predict levels of neurocognitive impairments, these variables were factored in to understand if they predict performance on cognitive and executive measures. The prisoner group scored significantly lower than the normative population in the domains of attention, working memory, immediate interference susceptibility, cognitive flexibility, inhibition, abstract reasoning and problem solving. Moreover, 70% of prisoners scored within the clinically impaired range on a measure of speed of processing, and 29.6% of the sample also scored at a clinically impaired level on a measure of memory consolidation (the ability to convert information from short term memory into long-term memory).

Cognitive impairments have been linked with treatment outcomes, with research indicating that low self-efficacy has been associated with treatment outcome in previous literature (Adamson, Sellman & Frampton, 2009; Kelly & Greene, 2014; Randall et al., 2003). As Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is used in the rehabilitation of prisoners and has been shown to improve self-efficacy, Study 2 examined changes in self-reported self-efficacy before and after the completion of a cognitive skills building program ‘Think First’ in a subsample of 52 participants taken from the original sample. Processing speed and memory consolidation were analysed to understand their predictive nature on prisoners’ self-reported self-efficacy, as they play a major role in learning, interpreting and applying new information.

Results demonstrated that prisoners with neurocognitive impairments in the cognitive domains of processing speed and memory consolidation self-reported positive shifts in the following areas after engaging in a cognitive skills program: attitude towards offending, perception of problem solving ability and specifically social problem solving, perceived self-efficacy, cognitive decision-making ability without impulsivity, and ability to stop and think before acting out (motor impulsivity). Additionally, speed of processing was found to be a predictor of reported self-efficacy; with higher scores on measures of processing speed associated with higher scores in self-reported self-efficacy post intervention. However, memory consolidation (as measured by RAVLT) did not significantly predict self-efficacy.
Findings from this dissertation provide important information which can be utilized by Corrective Services to inform prisoner allocation into therapeutic and psychoeducational programs, in accordance with the Risk-Need-Responsivity principle. It also provides clinicians responsible for delivering such programs with an understanding of the level of cognitive function prevalent within this population and how this may be taken into account when tailoring future offender rehabilitation programs to better meet individuals’ needs, and maximize benefit to both prisoners and the wider community.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Supervisor(s): Collins, Marjorie
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year