Psychology Unit 2- OCR Criminal Behaviour

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  • Created by: Chamy
  • Created on: 30-04-13 22:22

Criminal Behaviour

Defining and measuring crime is not always easy, crime statistics are often innaccurate and it is sometimes impossible to define what is a crime and what is not. For example, many people may see not paying for a short journey on a train as not a crime, but in fact it is still stealing and you are committing a crime, whereas murder or **** everybody knows and considers these acts as crimes. Crimes statistics are often skewed for a number of reasons:

  • Statistics count number of criminal acts rather than numbers of criminals 
  • People may be unaware that they have been a victim of a crime, therefore not reporting the crime
  • Victims of a crime may not want to report it for a number of reasons

Crime- any act going against the law

If crime really was any act going against the law, then that would make most people criminals as in surveys conducted, it was discovered that in fact almost every adult has broken the law in some form.

Most of these are minor offences, these have no real psychological value.

Criminal personality- A collection of traits that make a person different from 'normal' law adbiding people.

Common characteristics of this personality include:

  • Impulsivness
  • lack of guilty feelings
  • pleasure seeking
  • being over-optimistic
  • high self-importance

The Biological Theory of Criminal Behaviour

There is a debate whether criminal behaviour is a product of nature or nurture. 

A debate about the heritability of criminal behaviour.

Heritability-  The proportion of a behaviour that is due to genetic factors.

Biological theory suggests that criminal behaviour is inherited, that the person has already been genetically programmed to behave in this way (in their DNA).

On this basis there should be 'criminal families' - this is not solidly proven.

This theory suggests that if an individual's parent is a convicted criminal, then that individual would have a higher chance of becoming a criminal too.

However you don't inherit everything from one parent, therefore even if the gene is shown in the parent it may be recessive in the individual. 

What effect do these 'criminal genes' have on people?

One theory is that these genes have an effect on brain development. Brains of criminals are abnormal and are seen as having brain dysfunction.

Brain dysfunction- The idea that a brain is not operating as normal brains do.

Areas of the brain most dysfunctional in criminals are:

  • Prefrontal cortex- Underactive in criminals. Part of brain where humans are conditioned to form an association between fear and anti-social behaviour.
  • Limbic system- Increased activity in criminals. Controls aggressive and sexual behaviour. The amygdala is a specific part of the limbic system that controls emotion, such as responding with sympathy to a sad face. The amygdala does not function properly in the brains of psychopaths.
  • Corpus callosum- Less active in murderers. The bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain, which allows the rational side of the brain to communicate with the…



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