Arielle Baskin-Sommers, PhDHaving sociologist parents who studied crime and drug use, Arielle Baskin-Sommers, PhD, developed an interest in these issues from the time she was a child.

Today, as a psychologist, she has focused on the behaviors that land people in prison and often keep them there — a trend she hopes to curb. She has yielded some promising results.

With her 2016 APF/Pearson Grant, Baskin-Sommers, an assistant professor at Yale University, was able to develop an assessment tool: the Risky, Impulsive and Self-Destructive Behavior Questionnaire (RISQ). The tool elicits data to help determine why anti-social individuals engage in risky behaviors, and she has used that information to create and test a remediation training program.

Preliminary findings provided the first evidence that it is possible to use computerized training to target and modify cognitive-affective deficits and behavior. Baskin-Sommers explains:

"All too often, the seemingly intractable nature of antisocial individuals’ deficits has resulted in a long-standing pessimism about treating them. However, thanks to funding from the APF/Pearson Grant, we have been able to better identify the cognitive-affective deficits that are specific to subtypes of antisocial offenders, and now we are working to translate this knowledge into computerized cognitive skills training programs that target these newly identified mechanisms.”

How the Impact Multiplies

  • Impressed with Baskin-Sommers' work, the Connecticut Department of Correction granted her lab permission — the first group to receive such permission — to establish labs within the prisons to conduct research and create evidence-based intervention programs and training for adolescent inmates.
  • Building on the pilot data supported by the APF/Pearson Early Career Grant, Baskin-Sommers recently received a NIH grant to build on her cognitive training for antisocial individuals.
  • She has several publications and presented her work at several universities and national and international conferences.
  • Baskin-Sommers is now training the next generation of researchers. She initiated a clinical assessment training practicum for undergraduate and graduate students, where students learn how to structure clinical interviews and life-history interviews.

“The APF/Pearson Grant also has allowed me to "pay it forward” by supporting a program of research that immerses students, both graduate and undergraduate, of diverse backgrounds and keen passions, in an endeavor that aims to improve the lives of individuals and impact the health and safety of our communities. Having the support of APF was an important reminder that the work we are doing in the lab is important and valued. None of this would have been possible without the initial support from APF and Pearson.”