Psychological explanations of crime

  • Created by: grestabi
  • Created on: 12-12-18 14:06
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  • Psychological explanations of crime
    • Eysenck's theory of personality
      • Our personality is innate and has a biological basis. There is a personality type known as the criminal personality.
        • criminal personality will score highly on measures of extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism.
        • These people are seen as difficult to condition, and cold and unfeeling; these traits which explain their criminality.
      • Evidence: Eysenck's study of 2070 male prisoners + 2422 male controls. Prisoners scored higher on extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism than non-criminal control.
      • Cultural bias - Halonchok studied black and Hispanic criminals in America; found them to be less extroverted than non-criminal groups.
      • one personality type explaining all offending behaviour is not very plausible; Many different types of offender - they aren't all the same.
      • The validity of measuring personality through psychometric test is questionable - personality is not a stable entity + often changes over time as people mature
    • Cognitive explanations
      • Cognitive distortion
        • Form of irrational thinking - no longer represents reality
        • Allows an offender to deny or rationalise their irrational behaviours
          • Two examples of this are Minimalization and Hostile Attribution Bias
            • Minimalization: where consequences are under-exaggerated, reduces the impact of a crime in the offender's head.
            • Hostile Attribution Bias: When someone tends to always think the worst and is linked to increased levels of aggression.
        • Real world application - May be used in treatment. Cognitive behavioural techniques may reduce judgement errors.
        • Research support for minimalization: Kennedy + Grubin - sex offenders downplayed their behaviour in their accounts of the crime, partially blaming victim.
        • Research support for Hostile Attribution Bias: Schonenberg + Aiste showed faces to 55 violent offenders. They judged faces to be generally more violent than control group.
      • Level of moral Reasoning (Kohlberg, 1969)
        • Interviewed boys and men about moral decisions and developed a theory with three levels.
          • Gave them hypothetical moral situations and asked them to judge who was 'right' and 'wrong'.
            • Each level represents a more advanced form of understanding: 1) Pre-conventional 2) Conventional 3) Post-conventional
        • Most people are at a conventional level. These people may break the law to maintain society.
          • Criminals are likely at the pre-conventional level. They believe crime is justified if reward outweighs cost or punishment can be avoided
            • Most people leave this level at around age 10 - may explain UK age of criminal responsibility.
        • Research support: Chen + Howitt (2007) - 330 male offenders assessed on moral reasoning in Taiwan. Those who showed advanced reasoning less likely to be involved in violent crimes.
        • Does not concern moral behaviour, only moral thinking.
        • Moral principles may only be one factor in considering a crime - e.g. money may also be a factor.
        • application: Kohlberg set up communities (called 'Cluster schools') that could encourage moral development after observing children raised on Israeli Kibbutzim


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