Criminal Thinking Patterns (Yochelson & Samenow)

Moral Development (Kohlberg)

Social Cognition (Attributuion of blame- Gudjohnsson)

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Faye
  • Created on: 04-04-10 23:00

Yochelson and Samenow (1976)

These psychologists tries to identify a criminal's personality by looking at: the make up of the criminal personality and how their mind works with a view to helping the criminals.

The sample was 255 male offenders from a variety of backgrounds: black, white, those from inner city, those from the suburbs, weathly, poor, etc. in community clinics and psychiatric hospital in Washington D.C.
The method used to collect information from the sample was counselling them using psychodynamic techniques.

During the sessions the psychologists found out that one of the most important factors in shaping the thinking patterns of criminals is a self image which results in criminal choices and also in denial of responsibility.

1 of 11

Yochelson and Samenow (1976)

Yochelson and Samenow feel non-offenders felt responsible for their thought and actions. However, offenders made over 40 'thinking errors' when discussing their crimes. these errors were divided into three groups:
1.Thinking about own character- Being fearful of other people and needing to have power/control, don't accept responsibility
2.Automatic thinking errors, are poor at responsible decision making
3.Errors associated with the crime, regularly fantasizing about the excitement of committing crimes (but not consequences or being caught)

These psychologisitcs concluded from this reasearch that because of the errors and blases in their thinking patterns this led the offenders to make a series of incorrect choices and therefore behave in an unacceptable way.

Thinking About Own Character
e.g What is the point in trying, I will never amount to anything
-Envious of other peoples lives

2 of 11

Yochelson and Samenow (1976)

Automatic Thinking Errors
e.g. it wasn't my fault, if i hadn't gone along with the others i would have been called a sissy
-Believed he was chosen
-Seven sins

Errors That Were Associated With Crime
e.g the person shows uncontrollable emotions or says things like 'you should have seen the look on the lady's face when i grabbed her bag. it was amazing
-Got enjoyment out of committing crimes

Yochelson & Samenow developed cognitive treatment programmes for offenders to confront then "cure" these thinking errors and they claimed a high success rate once offenders could be made to recognize that they have a "criminal personality" in fact, only 30 offenders completed the course and only 9 of them genuinely changed their ways.

3 of 11

Kohelberg (1975) Moral development in children the

Kohlberg's scale of moral development begins at stages 1 & 2. which he calls preconventional morality, these stages are typical of children, although some adults think this way. At this level people are very unquestioning about right and wrong and see morality as about avioding punishment. this is quiet selfish metality that sees nothing wrong with taking what you want in life so long as you dont get caught.

Kohlberg's stages 3 & 4 are called conventional morality and are more typical of adult values. They involve conforming to society, respecting authourity and keeping promises. At this level people are concerned to be a "good person" and start to care about the effects behaviour has on society as a whole.

Kohlberg's stages 5 & 6 fall under post-conventional morality. These are less common attitudes, even in adults; in fact. Kohlberg stopped scoring people at stage 6 because he felt no one he interviewed showed consistent level 6 thinking. At this level, people start taking diversity into account, begin to question society's values and even challenge them. At stage 6, someone might try to change society based on higher idea of goodness or justice. People like the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce, the peaceful protester Mahatma Ghandi and the genocodal warlors Adolf Hitler might all fit into this category.

4 of 11

Kohelberg (1975) Moral development in children the

Level 1:Pre-morality
Stage 1- Punishment & obedience orientation- Doing what is right because of the fear of punishment.
Stage 2- Hedonistic Orientation-Doing what is right for personal gain,perhaps a reward
e.g stickers, attentions, rewards

Level 2: Common morality
stage 3- interpersonal concordance orientation-Doing what is right because it is your duty and helps society. Laws must be obyed for the common good.
e.g Helping a old lady with her shopping.

Level 3: Post conventional morality
stage 5 social contrast or legalistic orientation-Doing what is right even if it is against the law because the law is too restrictive,
e.g Heinz Dilema
stage 6- universal ethical principles orientation- Doing what is right because of our inner conscience which has absorbed the principal of justice, equality and sacredness of human life. e.g Hitler, Ghandi, Wilberforce

5 of 11

Kohlberg (1963) - Study

This study used 58 boys from Chicago of working middle class age (7,10,13 and 16). Each boy was given a 2 hour interview with ten dilemmas that they had to solve. They would listen to 10 short stories that contained MORAL DILEMMAS- situations where no course of action was clearly the morally right one-and Kohlberg asked them to jusitfy thier answers. He wasn't intersted in what course of action the respondents suggested, more in the reasons they came up with for their solution. Some of the boys were followed up at 3- yearly intervals up to age 3-36, making this a longitudinal study.

Results- Younger boys tended to be at stage 1 and 2 and the older boys were at stages 3 and 4. This was also found in other cross-cultural studies that Kohlberg did in 1969 in the Uk,Mexico,Talwan,Turkey,Usa and Yucastan.
Conclusuions- There is evidence to support the first four stages of Kohlberg's theory but not stage 6. More reccent replications (Thorton and Reid, 1982) With criminal samples have suggested that criminals committing crime for financial gain show more immature reasoning than those commiting violent crimes.

Reasearch suggests that a great many offenders in prision are sutck at Kohlberg's preconventional level of moral development. Programmes like EQUIP(john Gibbs et al.,1984) are aimed at teaching young people to see things from other people's viewpoints and have had some success at raising offenders to conventional moral thinking.

6 of 11

The Heinz Dillemma

In Europe, a woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her life. it was a form of radium that a druggiest in the same town have reccently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to make. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug.

The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $1,000 which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said: "no, I discovered the drug I'm going to make money for it." So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man's store to streal drug for his wife. Should the husband have done that?

7 of 11

Kohlberg's Theory

Kohelberg developed a theory of moral development in 1975. In this theory he suggests that everyone passes through stages of moral developement as they grow up. These stages start with a young child believing they should not do anything wrong in order to avoid punshment. This stage is called the Preconcentional Morality. As we grow up we reach higher stages of development such as stage 1 which is the law and order. At this stage a person would not commit a crime becuase it is not in the intrest of the greater society. This theory can be applied to criminal thinking patterns because it is possible criminals have an under-developed sense of morality. A criminal could be at stage 2 the pre convention stage and commit crimes such as burglary because they will do things for personal gains.

8 of 11

Gudjohnsson & Bownes- The attribution of blame and

Social Cognition
We all justify and explain our behaviour using either internal or external attributions. An internal attribution is when a person accepts full responsibilty for their own behaviour and sees that cause as being within themselves. An external attribution is when a person sees te cause of thier behaviour as being a external factor, e.g 'i was provoked, it's his fault I hit him', I had a bad childhood, i've got no money, job etc.

Aim: To examine the realationship between the type of offence and the attributions offenders make about their criminal acts.

Procedure:80 criminals who were serving sentences in Nothern Ireland. 20 had committed violent offences, 40 sex offences and 20 crimes against property. The criminals were asked to fill out a 42-iten 'Blame Attribution Inventory'

42 Items revised in 1989. PS rate statments true or false. It measures external attributions, mental element attribution (blame crime on mental factors that were out on character), and guilt.

9 of 11

Gudjohnsson & Bownes- The attribution of blame and

External Blame Attributions
Society is to blame for the crimes I have committed
I had a good reason for committing crime(s) I did
In my case the victim is entirely to blame for crime(s) I committed
Mental element attributions
I was in full control over my actions
I was very depressed when i committed the crime(s)
At the time of the crime I was fully aware of what I was doing.
Feeling of guilt:
I hate myself for the crimes I have committed.
I feel very ashamed of the crimes I have committed

Conclusion: Gudjohnsson & Bownes compared these findings to an earlier study carried out in England and found a high level of consistency for they way criminals attribute blame for their crimes. There was a higher level of external attribution for violent crimes in northern Ireland, but this may have been because of the 'troubles' in northern ireland in the 1980s and the early 1990s.

10 of 11

Gudjohnsson & Bownes- The attribution of blame and

Extra Evaluation

The theory of criminal attributions fits into a wider body of research looking at cognitive dissonance, beliefs and attribution and this means it has CONSTRUCT VALIDITY. Gudjohnsson's inventory produces quantitative data on three different dimensions and has been widely tested for RELIABILTY. Thee are many benefits from understanding more about criminal attributions: we many be able to prevent crime by figuring out what makes criminals likely to strike and who is most likely to be the victim; we could also use this knowledge to treat offenders and rehabilitate them.

There are some problems with Gudjonsson BAI, particularly its "transparency" which makes it very susceptible to DEMAND CHARACTERISTICS, Convicts filling out questionnaires will try to give the sort of answers researchers are looking for in the hope this will make them out to be "good prisoners" and earn them privileges. They might give socially desirable answers if they think it will get them easy release. This might be why the sex offenders expressed so much guilt- it makes them out to be cured!

11 of 11


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all resources »