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A well-developed literature has documented a negative and robust association between IQ and criminal behavior. At the same time, relatively little is known about the factors that ultimately contribute to the association, with the existing research revealing two possibilities. First, in line with population heterogeneity, IQ scores may tap internalized sources of influence that collectively increase underlying levels of criminality. Second, the differential detection hypothesis indicates that lower scores on IQ tests do not necessarily result in increases in criminal behavior, but rather result in a greater likelihood of coming into contact with law enforcement. The current study analyzed data from the Pathways to Desistance Study (N = 1,354) to examine the merits of these explanations. The results of survival analysis, which included controls for a time-stable, trait-based measure of criminality (measured using a latent trait-state-occasion approach) and other covariates, revealed a small, but negative and statistically significant, association between IQ and arrest, providing support for the differential detection hypothesis. Implications for future research and theoretical development are provided along with a discussion of the further incorporation of the concept of intelligence into the criminological literature.
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