Forensic - Turning To Crime - Cognition

  • thinking processes that determine actions, feelings and beliefs 
  • criminals have different though processes 
  • allows them to view their criminal behaviour as logical and attractive 
  • guilt and remorse/conscience that prevents law abiding people from acting criminally is absent 
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Yochelson & Samenow (1976)

Aim: To understand the make up of the criminal personality, establish techniques to alter personality disorders that produce crime, encourage understanding of legal responsibility and establish techniques that can be effective in preventing criminal behaviour

Method: series of interviews over 16 years 

Sample: 225 males, various backgrounds

Key Results: criminals are: restless, dissatisfied, irritable, considered as impositions at school, set themselves apart from others, want to live life of excitement, habitually angry, lacking empathy, feel under no obligation of anyone or anything, poor at responsible decision-making

Conclusions: 52 thinking patterns distinguishable (errors in thinking); lack of control group may be because research involved out of clinical practice with group of patients rather than set up from scratch

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Yochelson & Samenow (1976)


Evaluation Points:

  • longitudinal vs. snapshot
  • determinism vs. free will
  • individual vs. situational

Method issues: 

  • subject attrition
  • socially desirable answers 

Holism - looks into all thinking pattern, doesn't attribute to one thing. Fairly large sample and avoids ethnocentrism. 

Long period of time to interview  views may have changed. No way of testing if assumptions are true

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Kohlberg (1963)

Aim: To find evidence in support of a progression through stages of moral development

Method: Longitudinal study. 2 hour interview per participant with 10 dilemmas to solve. Some boys followed up at 3-yearly intervals up to age 30-36

Sample: 58 males from Chicago. Working and middle-class. Aged 7,10,13 and 16

Key Results: Younger boys tended to perform at stages 1&2, older boys at 3&4. Patterns consistent in cross-cultural studies. No support found for stage 6

Conclusions: Does seem to be support across cultures for stage theory. Recent replications have suggested that criminals committing crime for financial gain shows more immature reasoning than those committing violent crimes

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Kohlberg (1963)


Evaluation Points:

  • longitudinal vs. snapshot
  • determinism vs. free will
  • nature vs. nurture
  • individual vs. situational 

Methods issues:

  • ethnocentric - all male from same city 
  • sample attrition 
  • social desirable answers

Useful applications. Clear list of stages and development parts. Contributed to our understanding of human phenomenon.

Deterministic - over simplistic, ignores other complexities. Ignores emotion and freewill.

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Gudjohnsson & Bownes (2002)

Aim: To examine the relationship between the type of offence and the attributions offenders make about their criminal act and then cross-validate earlier findings on an English sample

Method: Use 'Gudjohnsson & Singh 42-item Blame Attribution Inventory' to measure offencers type of offence and attribution of blame on 3 dimensions: guilt, mental element and external

Sample: 80 criminals serving sentences in Northern Ireland. Divided into groups (20-violent mean age 29, 40-sex offenders mean age 41 and 20-property offenders mean age 29)

Key Results: Sex offenders showed more remorse. Little difference found between offenders for mental element. Most violent offenders had external attribution. Violent Irish prisoners showed lower mental element and higher external attribution compared with English prisoners.

Conclusion: Strong consistency in way offenders attribute blame. Violence results may be a result of violent prevalent in NI at the time of 'troubles' in 80s and 90s

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Gudjohnsson & Bownes (2002)


Evaluation Points:

  • determinism vs. free will
  • reductionism vs. holism
  • individual vs. situational

Method Issues:

  • ethnocentric
  • socially desirable answers
  • extraneous variables

Useful methods used to investigate behaviour. Contributes to understanding human phenomenon. Clear comparable and usable quantitative results. 

Ethnocentric - all Northern Irish prisoners. Extraneous variables may occur, may be other reasons for committing crime - Northern Irish known for their violence.

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