TURNING TO CRIME - COGNITION

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BACKGROUND

Criminals think differently to non-criminals.

  • Often, their behaviour is more impulsive and they tend to place blame on the victim (external) rather than themselves (external). They make attributions for their crimes which allow them to reduce any guilt they may have - for example 'they provoked me so I hit them' (Y+S)
  • They may be stuck in a lower stage of morality which effects their behaviour - usually stage 2 (Kohlberg)
  • May have 'errors' in their thinking (G+B)

STUDIES + APPLICATIONS

Yochelson + Samenow

'Cognitive biases' are thinking errors, whereby someone thinks wrongly about people or things. For example, gamblers believe they have special skills to win on fruit machines or hypochondriacs might think they have a severe illnesses because they have a headache. Paranoia is another example of this. These thinking errors can then lead to negative, or potentially criminal, behaviour.

  • Aim: to understand what makes up the criminal personality and to see how these traits can be altered to reduce crime rates
  • Participants: 255, half of which were in a mental institution after being found guilty despite pleading NGRI. Other half were convicted prisoners
  • Findings: 
    • Criminals felt habitually angry
    • Were restless and irritable
    • Felt no obligation to anyone/anything
    • Set themselves apart from others
    • Lacked empathy
    • At school, saw requests from parents and teachers as impositions
  • Conclusion: 
    • 52 thinking patterns discovered, known as cognitive errors
    • These traits were more common in criminals but not unique to them

Application

CBT can be used to alter ways criminals think about laws and those around them.

Anger management can also be used to help criminals dispose of their anger in a healthy way…

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