Biological explanations of crime


Historical Explanations (1)

1. Cesare Lombroso

One of the first criminal psychologists.

Believed that crime was biological and was linked to physical characteristics.

The more primate you looked the more likely you were to become a criminal (you were born to be a criminal)

He proved this theory with pages of pictures of criminals and non-criminals.


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Historical Explanations (2)

2. Phineas Gage

One of the first examples of how the brain can influence behaviour

Working on a railway when a tamping iron went through his skill.

He survived but with a very different personality e.g. increased aggression

Doctors started to think how brain structure could be linked to behaviour and is there a brain difference between criminals.

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Historical Explanations (3)

3. Charles Whitman

He killed 13 people from Texas University’s Observation Tower after killing his wife and mother.

He killed himself but left a note asking doctors to examine his brain because he couldn’t handle his aggression.

They found a tumour in his brain pressing against his amygdala.

This case allowed psychology to become more scientific. They couldn’t perform brain scans because they didn’t have the equipment but they could dissect dead people.

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Historical Explanations (4)

4. William Sheldon

Believed that the three body types linked to three personality types

  • ·         Endomorph (Fat and soft) = Tend to be sociable and relaxed
  • ·         Ectomorph (Thin and fragile) = introverted and restrained
  • ·         Mesomorphic (Muscular and hard) = aggressive and adventurous

He found the mesomorphs most likely to be criminals and ectomorphs least likely.

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