Forensic Psychology Evaluations.

Evaluations for Theories of Forensic Psychology.

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Physiological Theory Evaluation

Atavistic Form

  • Goring - anatomical differences not as extreme as lombroso said but low intelligence was common. 
  • Methodology not rigorous and conclusions bizarre.
  • Failed to recognise that correlation doesn't imply cause & effect. 
  • Could be poverty and deprivation which causes physical defects.



  • Gluek & Gluek - 60% mesomorph delinquents and only 31% mesomorph non-delinquents. 
  • Cortes & Gatti - in a sample of 100, 57% mesomorph compared with 19% controls.
  • Remains unclear the link between mesomorphy and crime. 
  • Muscular types invited into crime, more successful, behaviour continues.
1 of 10

Psychodynamic Theory Evaluation.

Bowlby Study

  • Criticised for concentrating on separation, could be mother is there but unloving. 
  • Study supports idea of maternal deprivation. 
  • Doesn't explain rational, thought-out crime. 
  • Only theory that addresses emotions in criminal behaviour. 



  • Many people without same sex parent grow to be fully law abiding. 
  • Males have stronger superego apparently but statistically commit more crime.
  • Defence mechanisms are unconscious so can't be tested.
2 of 10

Learning Theory Evaluation.

General Theories

  • Highlight importance of environment on criminal behaviour. 
  • Try to apply simple principles to complex, varied behaviour. 
  • Studies involve specific learning tasks - lack eco validity. 
  • Criminal behaviour runs in families could be genetics.
  • Don't explain why many offenders cease to offend as they get older. 


Differential Association

  • Drew attention to fact that not all crimes are committed by psychopaths.
  • Difficult to explain impulsive crimes. 
  • Vague - how does learning take place?
  • Difficulty testing - can't test number and strength of associations.
3 of 10

Personality Theory Evaluation.

  • Easily tested - EPI a reliable tool.
  • No differences in EEG measures of introverts/extraverts.
  • Zuckerman - Boredom arises from increased not decreased arousal.
  • Smith - Sensation seekers have an excitable CNS so are more aroused/arousable.



  • Some studies - criminals score higher on extraversion and neuroticism. 
  • Bartol - criminals less extravert but different cultural group. 
  • Theory that claims to be universal but isn't is not valid. 
  • Recognises that both environment and biology play a large part.
4 of 10

Biological Theory Evaluation.

Genetic Transmission

Twin Studies - 55% concordance for MZ + 12% concordance for DZ 

Adoption Studies - between 1927 and 1947 - 14,000 adoptee offenders. 

Family Studies - 40% criminal sons of criminal fathers - 12% sons of non-criminal     fathers.

  • Hard to seperate genetics from environmental factors 

Other Theories

  • No single criminal gene identified.
  • Have in common that criminals are biologically different. 
  • Could be environment that leads to biological differences.

5 of 10

Non-Custodial Punishment Evaluation.


  • Economical
  • Source of income for the state. 
  • Don't prevent offender from earning a living. 
  • Don't stigmatise the offender
  • Not exposed to criminalising influence of prisons. 
  • Effective Deterrent.
  • Flexible.
  • Others can pay them however. 
  • Often amount is not enough. 

Electronic Tagging

  • Much less expensive than prison. 
  • Provides order & structure - prevents slipping back into old habits.
  • Family relationships can be strained due to curfews. 
6 of 10

Custodial Sentencing Evaluation.

  • Causes negative psychological effects e.g. depression, institutionalisation. 
  • Zimbardo study evaluation. 
  • Bartol - prison for most can be brutal and devastating. 
  • Suicide - most at risk, young males within 24 hours. 
  • Self-Harm - found that women are more at risk of self harm. 
  • Overcrowding can cause physical illness etc.
  • Post-traumatic stress but could be caused by flashbacks to the crime.


  • Individual differences in adjusting to prison. 
  • Different prisons have different regimes - different effects. 
  • Few controlled longitudinal studies completed. 
  • Length of sentence and reason for imprisonment can have an effect.
7 of 10

Social Skills Training Evaluation.

  • Goldstein - 30 studies reviewed - only 15-20% could use learned skills - increased to 50% after further training. 
  • Study - records examined - SST group had lower level of conviction but when asked had committed more crimes, were possibly just better at talking to the police!
  • No research to show whether lack of social skills even causes offending behaviour
  • In some SST programmes there has been no records of participants even lacking social skills in the first place!
  • SST is effective in the short term but not in the long term.
8 of 10

Behaviour Modification Evaluation.

  • Effective in changing specific behaviours under controlled conditions but not outside prison as there is no reward. 
  • Requires little training - can be done by Para-professionals. 
  • Economical
  • Quickly controls unmanageable behaviour. 
  • Easily evaluated & researched. 




  • Requires a high degree of commitment from all those involved.
  • Many other sources of re-inforcement in prison - e.g. admiration of other inmates etc.
9 of 10

Anger Management Evaluation.

  • Study - only one person that completed an 8 session course showed any improvement.
  • Hunter - reported considerable improvements in certain areas such as depression and impulsiveness. 
  • Researchers disagree about whether there is a link between anger and violent crime. 
  • Effective at reducing anger in the short term but not long-term. 
  • Zamble & Quinsey - uncontrolled anger is a risk factor in predicting violence and recidivism. 
  • Loza & Loza - interviewed Canadian offenders - no difference between violent and non-violent offenders. 
  • Requires careful planning and a high level of commitment. 
10 of 10


Get Revising Moderator 2


Very clear and informative, well done!

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