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Last thoughts

In this paper, we have suggested that some of the common assumptions about post hoc excuses (sometimes called cognitive distortions) are worthy of reinvestigation.

In particular, we point to a large body of literature that indicates excuse making is normal and frequently healthy, and we make the uncontroversial point that behaviours frequently do have external causes.

We suggest that, just because many offenders seek to excuse their offending by appealing to external, unstable causes, this does not justify the assumption that such an attributional style is risky. Such an assumption may mean that those concerned with understanding offending, whether through research or clinical practice, pay too little attention to other, perhaps more important, cognitive phenomena.

As always, more research is needed, but future work should maintain a more open, unbiased mind in regard to offender accounts and seek to avoid misattributions of labels such as cognitive distortion.

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