FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY - EARLY BIOLOGICAL APPROACHES

the early biological approaches explanation for offending - forensic psychology

a2 psychology unit 3

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  • Created on: 09-06-12 15:04
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Early Biological Approaches
Focused on aspects of offenders' physical make-up or constitution e.g. facial features or
body type
Believed certain physiological characteristics were commonly found amongst criminals and
identify a criminal type
Lombroso's theory of atavistic form:
o Proposed that offenders were a biologically distinctive group of people exhibiting
primitive characteristics, a separate species with a primitive genetic form (atavistic)
o Also believed their features enabled them to survive in the wild but made them
ill-suited to existence in civilised society
o He argued that the shape of the head and facial features determined the criminal
type and that criminals were born, not made
o The following features were considered by Lombroso as part of the criminal type:
Large jaws
Narrow sloping brow
High cheekbones
Large ears
Extra nipples, fingers, toes
Dark skin
Hairiness
Insensitivity to pain
o Based his theory on survey data of criminal heads and bodies
o He suggested that approximately 40% of crimes could be attributed to have been
perpetrated by individuals with the atavistic constitution
o Later on he states that criminality was attributed to congenital illness e.g. most born
criminals suffer from epilepsy to some degree
Sheldon's somatotype theory:
o Proposed a constitutional theory of crime based on body shape (somatotype)
o Three basic body types:
Endomorph
Soft, fat and rounded
Social, relaxed character
Ectomorph
Skinny and fragile
Shy and introverted
Mesomorph
Hard and muscular
Aggressive and adventurous characters ­ the criminal type
o Sheldon accepted that most people were a combination of somatotypes and the
extreme was very rare
o Believed that the degree of mesomorphy could predict the extent to which a person
would show criminal tendencies

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