I Am Addicted 2

Dynamics of Addiction and Criminal Behavior

Posted on: September 2, 2011



Atavisim 1865 Lombroso Biological

Atavistic anomalies



1. The theory of Atavisim was a concept developed by the criminologist Cesare Lombroso

( 1835-1909 ). His ideas were part of the 19th century movement known as Positivism.


Positivism was an approach to the study that relied on the scientific method.


Positivism was applied to the field of criminology by Lombroso in an attempted to create a

field of study known as criminal anthropology.



Criminal Anthropology was based on the earlier work of Charles Darwin and the theory of



Lombroso attempted to show that physical traits would be determinats of criminal behavior.


This is also known as biological determinism.



2. Lombroso used the term atavistic anomolies to mean that certain people were evolutionary “throw

backs” and that they would have difficulty functioning in a civilized culture.

Anomie 1900 Durkhiem Social Structure Anomie




Anomie was a concept first defined by the French sociologist Emile Durkiehm. It is the idea that

when people find themselves in rapidly changing social conditions they will lose the social guides to

behavior. This leads to a state of normlessness and a lack of understanding of acceptable behaviors.


Durkhiem saw anomie resulting from the transition of a rural agrarian society into a urban

one. He explained his ideas in his book

The Division of Labor in Society ( 1893)


Durkhiem research suicide as a way to show the results of anomie. He was able to

demonstrate that suicide rates increased when economic conditions declined are improved. He


hypothesized it was the social transitions that created a state of anomie and led to the


increased suicide rates

(Suicide: A study in Sociology; 1897)

2. Durkhiem also believed crime to be a normal and necessary part of society.

Genetics 1900 Christiansen Biological

Twin Studies

Adoption Studies



Genetic Theories

1. Explanations of criminal behavior that rely on genetics as the main cause generally fall into one of

three main groups: YYX chromosome theory, twin studies and adoption studies.


The YYX Chromosome Theory suggests that there is an unusual genetic structure in some

men that produces very aggressive behavior. This aggressive behavior is the result two Y sex


chromosomes rather than the normal one. This condition is considered to be very rare and


could not explain most violent behavior however. It is also believed that because the


condition is so rare, valid research would be very difficult to achieve. It could be very difficult


to know the number of men with double Y chromosomes that have ever committed a crime.



Twin studies are used to show the affects of genetics in behavior. This is possible because

identical twins have the same genetic make up and can be compared with non twins for the


frequency of criminal behavior. If twins commit criminal behavior at a greater frequency than


non twin siblings this would suggest a role for genetics in criminal behavior.



With adoption studies the goal differentiate the role that environment plays from that of

genetics. If children who are raised by non-relative adoptive parents show a greater similarity


to the behavior of their biological parents, who had no environmental influence, then it would


suggest genetic influence.


2. In one famous adoption study the following results were reported



Of the children studied who had no criminal behavior in either their adoptive or biological

parents in was found that 13.5% committed delinquent acts.



Of the children studied who had criminal behavior in their adoptive parents but none in their

biological parents in was found that 14.7% committed delinquent acts.



Of the children studied who had no criminal acts in their adoptive parents but did in their

biological it was found that 20% committed delinquent acts.



In children that had criminal acts in both set of parents it was found that 25% committed

delinquent acts.



This was seen as giving strong evidence to the theory that genetics plays a role in causing

criminal behavior. One of the important findings however was that in all groups the vast


majority of children committed no delinquent behaviors.


3. In a famous twin study conducted between 1929 and 1961 found the following results:



60% of identical twins had the same criminal behavior pattern while only 30% of non

identical twins had a similar pattern. This also lends evidence that genetics plays a role in


determining criminal behavior.



Similar correlations have been found in other twin studies

Psychoanalytic 1920 Freud Psychological Ego










Psychosexual Development


Psychoanalytic Theory

1. Psychoanalytic theory of crime was based on the work of Sigmund Freud. Freud developed a theory

of personality development that was known as psychosexual development. In his theory the mind

consisted of three main structures, the Id, Ego, and Superego. Freud felt that most deviant behavior

was the result of the ego and superego not developing normally. The cause of these psychic structures

not developing normally found in traumatic events in a child’s life that would interfere with the

stages of psychosexual development


The Id was that part of the mind that a person is born with. It is characterized by aggressive

self-centered impulses. These impulses demand to be gratified and a baby or young child will


have difficulty delaying this gratification.



The Ego was the mechanism that the mind used to mediate between the demands of the id and

the demands that the child’s environment placed on the developing child. To be able to


balance these two demands the child had to learn how to delay gratification and begin to


understand the “rules” of where she or he might live.



The Superego was the psychic structure that allowed the developing child to learn the

difference between right and wrong. This was accomplished through the child identification


with the parent’s superego. This was thought to be completed by the time the child turn age




2. As the child went through the stages of psychosexual development the child would eventually end up


with an internalized sense of right and wrong. On the other hand trauma of some type might prevent


the child from developing a complete superego. This would lead to difficulty with understanding


right and wrong and issues of morality.



Freud thought of the person who did not have a fully formed superego as suffering from a

type of personality disorder known as the sociopath personality. He felt this person would be


predisposed to commit crimes.


3. The stages of psychosexual development according to Freud are:



Oral Stage- here the child’s internal motivations (demands) focus on the mouth and eating.

This stage is primary during the first year of life.



The Anal Stage the child discovers their own body and the ability to control their own

muscles. This stage corresponds to what is known as the toddler stage, ages 1-3.



Phallic Stage- the child discovers the power of relationships and is motivated out of a sense of

love for the parent of the opposite sex. This follows the age of 4 or 5.



Latency Stage- the child focuses on learning social skills in relation to persons of the same

sex. This stage usually lasts from age 6 to age 12.



Genital Stage- this stage corresponds with adolescents and is brought on by the advent of

puberty. This stage of development focuses on the relationship with the opposite sex.


4. The basic point of psychoanalytic theory and crime is the fact that most crime was committed by


persons with a “primitive” superego which came from unresolved trauma during the phallic stage.


Ecological 1925 Burgess &


Parks Social Structure Chicago School


Natural Areas




The Ecological School

1. Ecological School looks at social change that occurs within environmental change.


This school of thought is closely associated with the Chicago School of sociology and the

work of Ernest Burgess and Robert Park.



Social Disorganization Theory was an outgrowth of this line of study.


Ecological Theory is also a form of functional theory which was first developed by



2. The ecological school of criminology thought that crime was caused from the environments that


people lived within. This was in contrast to the commonly held belief that crime was a function of




3. Different sections of the city were seen as different functional organs. The results it was thought was


that the section of the city you lived in would then influence your behavior.


Social Disorganization 1929 Shaw &


McKay Social Structure


Concentric Zones


Zones of transition


Concentration effect


Social Disorganization Theory

1. Social Disorganization Theory was an outgrowth of the study of the outgrowth of the study of

juvenile delinquency in Chicago in the 1920’s and 30’s. The work was conducted by Clifford Shaw

and Henry McKay. Shaw and McKay noticed that there were marked differences in the crime rate in

various parts of the city. They developed a model to study the Chicago crime rate. It is known as the

concentric zones model.


The concentric zone model was based on dividing the city into five concentric circles the first

starting at the center of the city in the core business district each of the next circles then


expanding out. Crime rates were then monitored for each of these geographic regions.



The highest crime rate was found to be located in the zone that had been labeled Zone II. This

zone was the zone right next to the central business district.


There were 5 zones

Zone I – Central business

Zone II – Zone of Transition

Zone III – Working Class Homes

Zone IV – Middle Class Homes

Zone V – Commuters

Zone II was marked by a high level of transition, people moving in and out of the area.

It was hypothesized that this “zone of transition” led to social disorganization.

2. Shaw and McKay noted that the crime rate remained high in zone II even though different ethnic


groups would move in and out from the years 1900 thru 1933.



They believed the crime rate was kept elevated through process of “cultural transmission “.


It was also stated that crime was committed by ordinary people within certain environments.

Somatotypes 1935 Sheldon Biological Endomorph









1. William Sheldon developed a theory crime based on body types. The idea was that certain body

builds would lead to certain characteristics and could influence whether someone was more likely to

commit a crime. The three types of bodies were


Mesomorphs which are defined as muscular and well developed. This was seen as associated

with people who are aggressive, violent, and most likely to commit a crime.



Ect omorphs are defined as slender, tall, intellectual and not likely to commit a crime.


Endomorphs were large heavy build and less intelligent.

2. Sheldon’s work was similar to Lombroso’s theory of Atavistic Anomalies. Though both tried to


portray their research as scientific it was not. Much of what they assumed to be a result of genetics or


biological functions could easily be explained by environmental factors. Their work was strongly


influenced by their own stereotyping and prejudice.


Strain Theory 1940 Merton Social Structure














Stain Theory

1. Strain Theory was developed by the sociologist Robert Merton in the 1940’s. It was an attempt to

explain the role social stress plays on the development of deviant behavior, in particular crime.


Strain Theory is based on the concept anomie. Anomie first defined by Emile Durkhiem

(1858-1917) and means a state of normlessness.



The basic concept suggests that when social norms become disorganized an increase in

deviant behavior will occur as a reaction to the loss of social cohesion.


2. Strain Theory states that anomie occurs whenever there is a gap between the goals a society expects


from persons and the means that exist to achieve the goals. Strain Theory suggests there are five


possible reactions to this anomie.



Conformity – Some people can continue to except the goals sanctioned by society and the

means that are available to them.



Ritualism- occurs when the person continues to perform traditional duties and behaviors when

there is little change of that leading to achieving the accepted goals. In this situation the


means in away become the goals. By carrying on the traditional behaviors the person finds


structure in their life.



Innovation – If a person chooses this reaction to anomie they will continue to accept the goals

of the society however will not accept the means to achieve the goals. They will instead


innovate new means to achieve the goals. These new means may result in criminality.



Retreatism – In this reaction to anomie the person rejects both the goals of society, there is

little desire to achieve societies expectations and the means. The person fills no obligation to




behave in a way that society defines as acceptable. In this scenario crime cans emerge as a


result of retreatist behaviors such as drug use, prostitution, and crimes related to alcoholism.



Rebellion – In the case of rebellion not only does the person reject society’s goals and means

but wish to replace the goals and means with new goals and means that the rebellious group


believes is more appropriate. Criminal acts can occur from this situation that is political in


nature. Crimes such as assassinations, terrorism, and revolution are the result.


3. Strain is also closely associated with the idea of relative deprivation. Relative deprivation is the


concept that one will define how successful they are only in relation to their surrounding


environment. It follows that if a person who perceives themselves in state of economic failure lives in


a neighborhood that contains many financially successful people, it will only elevate the since of


strain. The correlation would be that the greater the relative deprivation the greater the anomie and


the reactions to the strain.


4. Concept area that has come out of strain theory is the idea of a General Strain Theory. Strain theory


was critized for focusing too much on economic strain. General Strain Theory state that conditions


other than economic conditions can create anomie strain reactions. The focus is on negative


emotional states such as anger, sadness, confusion, frustration that does not have to come from


economic conditions but may have many sources. These negative states will also lead to strain.


Cultural Conflict 1940 Sellin Social Structure Norms




Cultural Conflict

1. When the norms of one group are in direct conflict with the norms of the dominant group the

dominant group may see this behavior as deviant or even criminal while the person committing the

behavior may see nothing wrong with the behavior. This can occur easily when two different cultures

try to coexist without understanding of each other.

2. Since different cultures in cities tend to live in the same areas this theory is similar to the ecological

theory of Ernest Burgess and Robert Park

3. Another way in which cultural conflict can develop into criminal behavior is through what is known

as focal concerns. This occurs when a culture develops a lifestyle that has a focus that is very

different than that of the dominant culture. Walter Miller described some of the focuses that the urban

poor have in their daily life that may conflict with dominant culture. these are listed below:













4. These qualities can lead members of the culture into activities that are criminal.


Differential Association Theory 1945 Sutherland Social Process Differential Association


Differential Association

1. Differential Association Theory was developed by the famous criminologist Edwin Sutherland

(1883-1950). He felt that criminal behavior was learned. The person learned the behavior by


associating with persons who condoned criminal behavior. Since his theory did not depend on

biological explanations or certain social/structural conditions it became very useful in explaining why

crime could exist in different socioeconomic strata.

2. Differential Association is based on 9 principles governing the learning process.


Principle # 1 Criminal behavior is learned. Criminal behavior is no different than any other

behavior that is learned.



Principle # 2Criminal behavior is learned through associating with others via the

communication processes.



Principle # 3The primary associations that teach criminal behavior or intimate relationships

family, school, peers.



Principle # 4Through intimate social groups persons learn the skills necessary to commit

crimes. Crimes cannot successfully performed without the skills and they are learned.



Principle # 5The intimate relationships also teach the drives and motivations required to

commit a crime.



Principle # 6Diffrential theory suggests that the criminal behavior will follow the rules

governing all learned behavior. Particularly when the behavior is seen as having more rewards


than negative consequences the behavior will continue. If the consequences are greater than


the rewards the behavior will stop.



Principle # 7Differiantial associations are ranked in ability to have influence over a persons

behavior based on the following:


priority- the age of children when first understand criminal behavior

intensity- the level of prestige associated with a person or group

frequency- number of contacts a person has with groups that condone criminal



Duration- the length of time the relationship will last and so its influence over the

persons behavior.



Principle # 8Learning criminal behavior is no different from learning any other behavior.


Principle # 9Criminal behavior, though deviant, is an expression of values and needs that

shape the behavior.


Labeling Theory 1950 Lement Social Process Primary


Secondary Deviance


Labeling Theory

1. People’s behaviors are shaped by social labels. A person will become a criminal when society labels

that person as a “criminal”. Labeling theory also considers why society is more likely to label certain

persons as criminal and not others.

2. Much of labeling theory comes from the general sociological perspective known as symbolic

interaction theory. This theory states that reality is to a large degree defined by shared social symbols.

When enough people agree that a certain idea is true then it “becomes” true and is understood as real.


If one person commits a crime and is defined a criminal then society may react to that person as a

criminal. This will in turn require him to act as a criminal. O the other hand if another person

commits the same crime and society defines the behavior as a “mistake”. The is not seen as a criminal

and as such is not required to be a criminal in return.

3. Labeling theory relies on the ideas of primary and secondary deviance.


Primary deviance is when someone commits a crime.


Secondary deviance is when someone is labeled criminal and so acts in character with the




According to secondary deviance the more someone is defined as a criminal the more likely

they will commit a crime.


4. If labeling theory is correct then the way to lower the crime rate is found in changing how society


interacts with criminals to avoid labels.


Delinquent Subcultures Theory 1955 Cohen Social Structure Reaction Formation


Middle Class Measuring Rod


Delinquent Subcultures Theory

1. Albert Cohen developed a theory of gang formation that bases its premise on the potential gang

member’s reaction to the middle class value.

2. Cohen states the following:


That the delinquent gang member’s behavior is rooted in the parent do aspirations, the desire

to achieve the middle class dream.



This dream cannot be realized because of economic conditions this results in frustration.


The child then must confront the middle class value structure in the poor urban school setting.

The school evaluates by middle class standards, something the child does not aspire to.



The result is a total rejection of the middle class and everything middle class through a

process known as a reaction formation. This reaction formation creates a situation where


those who form the gang may achieve status by seeing who can reject middle class values the




3. Cohen believed that this scenario can result in three different types of gangs.



The first is what he called the corner boys a group of male adolescents who spent their day

simply hanging out. They might participate in petty crimes.



The next group is what he called the delinquent boys. This is the group that will establish

status by rejecting middle class values and ideals such as education, work, planning, and


family. They will instead focus on criminal behavior.



The last group identified was the college boys. These were the ones who still held on to the

middle class ideals and keep striving even though the odds were against them.


4. What Cohen has done has taken aspects of Strain theory and Differential Association Theory and


combined them around the idea of the reaction formation


Differential Opportunity Theory 1960 Cloward


Ohlin Social Structure


Criminal Gang


Conflict Gang


Retreatist Gang




Differential Opportunity Theory

1. Like Albert Cohen Richard Cloward and Loyd Ohlin tried to understand the development of

delinquent gangs. Their theory is known as Differential Opportunity Theory. Unlike Cohen , however

they did not see the gang arising out of a reaction to middle class values. They in fact felt it

developed out of a process that was separate totally from the middle class.

2. They felt that people joined gangs for economic opportunity. They stated that the organization of the

neighborhood determined the level of economic opportunity. This was closely associated with

neighborhood stability. This level of stability could then determine the types of gangs that could form

3. The idea is that since legitimate opportunities in the economy are limited, so are the illegitimate.

Competition exists for criminal jobs.

4. This leads to the development of three types of gangs.


The Criminal gang- a gang that focuses on crimes that will earn them money. This gang will

usually try to stay “out of sight” and will only recruit new members based on potential skills


in crimes such as bugarlry. This gang requires a stable neighborhood to work in.



The Conflict gang- a gang that is found in more transient neighborhoods. The focus of this

gang is obtaining status through toughness. Loyalty to the gang is all important. The status in


the gang is determined by the appearance of being tough.



The Retreatist gangs a group who does not have the skills of the criminal gang or the ability to

make it in the conflict gang. This group will simply hang out together around the behavior of


doing drugs or drinking or possibly sex.


5. In Differential Opportunity Theory we see the combination of Strain, Social Disorganization, and


Differential Association Theory.


Focal Concerns 1960 Miller Social Structure Value Systems


Cultural Conflict

1. When the norms of one group are in direct conflict with the norms of the dominant group the

dominant group may see this behavior as deviant or even criminal while the person committing the

behavior may see nothing wrong with the behavior. This can occur easily when two different cultures

try to coexist without understanding of each other.

2. Since different cultures in cities tend to live in the same areas this theory is similar to the ecological

theory of Ernest Burgess and Robert Park

3. Another way in which cultural conflict can develop into criminal behavior is through what is known

as focal concerns . This occurs when a culture develops a lifestyle that has a focus that is very

different than that of the dominant culture. Walter Miller described some of the focuses that the urban

poor have in their daily life that may conflict with dominant culture. these are listed below:















4. These qualities can lead members of the culture into activities that are criminal.


Neutralization Theory 1960 Sykes &


Matza Social Process


techniques of neutralization


subterranean behaviors




Neutralization Theory

1. Neutralization Theory is a theory in criminology that attempts to explain why persons can seem to be

following social norms most of the time but at times deviate. This helps explain why crime will exist

within groups that basically believe in the social norms.


This idea of being able to go between two sets of conflicting norms without internal conflict is

known as drift.


2. According to the theory people must learn to neutralize their fundamental beliefs in order to commit


the crime. They learn techniques of neutralization to prevent any internal conflicts in their


contradictory behavior. These techniques are as follows:



Denial of responsibility


Denial of injury


Denial of the victim


Condemnation of the condemner


Appeal to higher loyalties

3. In this way the person can rationalize that their criminal behavior had no negative consequence to the


victim and so their is no quilt.


Containment Theory 1960 Reckless Social Process






internal pushes


external pressures


external pulls


Containment Theory

1. Containment Theory is an explanation as to why we do not commit crimes. This approach tries to

explain that both social (external) and psychological (internal) forces work together to keep criminal

behaviors in check.

2. Much of the person’s ability to resist crime rests with the person’s self esteem. The self esteem comes

from a comparison of self concept to the person’s ideal self.

3. If a person has strong internal controls, “ego strengths” then the person can resist external pressures

to commit crime. If the person has weak internal controls but has strong external controls then such

as a law abiding peer group and family then the person will also resist crime. The types of pressures

are as follows:


Internal Pushes: restlessness, anger, rebellion, anxiety, and other negative emotional states.


External Pushes: These are limitations on one’s ability to succeed in life. Examples can be

poverty, unemployment, lack of school, discrimination.





External Pulls: This is primarily the negative affect that the peer group can have on a person.

By following the peer group that participates in crime the person is pulled into crime.


Social Control Theory 1970 Hirschi Social Process


Social Bond










Control Theory

1. Control theory argues that it is social bonding that prevents us from becoming criminals. By creating

social bonds to persons who have a middle class value system then person adopts the same value

system and avoids criminal activity.

2. It is important to understand the elements of the social bond. Hirchi describes 4 elements to the social



Attachment: Attachment refers to a person’s shared interests with others.


Commitment: This is the amount of energy and effort put into activities with others


Involvement: The amount of time spent with others in shared activities.


Belief: This refers to a shared value and moral system.

Biochemical 1985 Biological








Biochemical Influences

1. There are many possible biochemical influences that can affect our behavior. It is believed that if

such factors could inhibit our ability to make good judgments or interfere with our ability to control

impulses then it may lead to a criminal act.

Listed below are some possible biochemical factors that might influence decision making processes

or emotional controls.


Hypoglycemia – this is a drop in blood sugar. It can result in impaired thinking processes and

in some cases increased agitation and aggressive behavior.



Substance Abuse -ingesting mood altering chemicals can impair both impulse controls and

cognitive functioning. The results can be criminal behavior that otherwise would not have





Food Allergies- individual reactions to certain foods can create unusual mood patterns

including irritability, aggressive behavior, and depression.



Diet and Fatigue- Lack of nutrients or the lack of sleep can also affect one’s ability to make

decisions leading to poor judgments and a criminal act.


2. It should be remembered that the cause and effect relationship considered is very indirect it is not


suggested that criminal behavior is a direct result of these conditions.




Psychological Theories of Crime

Psychological theories of crime begin with the view that individual differences in behavior may make some

people more predisposed to committing criminal acts. These differences may arise from personality

characteristics, biological factors, or social interactions.

Psychoanalytic Theory

According to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), who is credited with the development of psychoanalytic theory,

all humans have natural drives and urges repressed in the unconscious. Furthermore, all humans have

criminal tendencies. Through the process of socialization, however, these tendencies are curbed by the

development of inner controls that are learned through childhood experience. Freud hypothesized that the

most common element that contributed to criminal behavior was faulty identification by a child with her or

his parents. The improperly socialized child may develop a personality disturbance that causes her or him to

direct antisocial impulses inward or outward. The child who directs them outward becomes a criminal, and

the child that directs them inward becomes a neurotic.


Freud, S. (1961).

The Complete Works of Sigmund Freud

(Vol. 19). London: Hogarth.


Cognitive Development Theory

According to this approach, criminal behavior results from the way in which people organize their thoughts

about morality and the law. In 1958, Lawrence Kohlberg, a developmental psychologist, formulated a theory

concerning the development of moral reasoning. He posited that there are three levels of moral reasoning,

each consisting of two stages. During middle childhood, children are at the first level of moral development.

At this level, the

preconventional level, moral reasoning is based on obedience and avoiding punishment.

The second level, the

conventionallevel of moral development, is reached at the end of middle childhood.

The moral reasoning of individuals at this level is based on the expectations that their family and significant

others have for them. Kohlberg found that the transition to the third level, the postconventional level of

moral development, usually occurs during early adulthood. At this level, individuals are able to go beyond

social conventions. They value the laws of the social system; however, they are open to acting as agents of

change to improve the existing law and order. People who do not progress through the stages may become

arrested in their moral development, and consequently become delinquents.


Cole, M. & Cole S. R. (1993).

The development of children

. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Kohlberg, L. (1976). Moral stages and moralization: The cognitive-developmental approach to socialization. In J. Lickona,





development behavior: Theory, research, and social issues




. New York: Harper & Row.


Learning Theory

Learning theory is based upon the principles of behavioral psychology. Behavioral psychology posits that a

person’s behavior is learned and maintained by its consequences, or reward value. These consequences may

be external reinforcement that occurs as a direct result of their behavior (e.g. money, social status, and


goods), vicarious reinforcement that occurs by observing the behavior of others (e.g. observing others who

are being reinforced as a result of their behavior), and self-regulatory mechanisms (e.g. people responding to

their behavior). According to learning theorists, deviant behavior can be eliminated or modified by taking

away the reward value of the behavior. Hans J. Eysenck, a psychologist that related principles of behavioral

psychology to biology, postulated that by way of classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and modeling

people learn moral preferences. Classical conditioning refers to the learning process that occurs as a result of

pairing a reliable stimulus with a response. Eysenck believes, for example, that over time a child who is

consistently punished for inappropriate behavior will develop an unpleasant physiological and emotional

response whenever they consider committing the inappropriate behavior. The anxiety and guilt that arise

from this conditioning process result in the development of a conscience. He hypothesizes, however, that

there is wide variability among people in their physiological processes, which either increase or decrease

their susceptibility to conditioning and adequate socialization.


Bandura, Albert (1973).

Aggression: A social learning analysis

. Engle-wood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Eysenck, H.J. (1964).



Crime and Personality

. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Eysenck, H.J., & Gudjonsson, G.H. (1989) The causes and cures of criminality.



Contemporary Psychology, 36

, 575-577.


Intelligence and Crime

James Q. Wilson’s and Richard J. Herrnstein’s

Constitutional-Learning Theory integrates biology and social

learning in order to explain the potential causes of criminality. They argue that criminal and noncriminal

behavior have gains and losses. If the gains that result from committing the crime (e.g. money) outweigh the

losses (e.g. being punished), then the person will commit the criminal act. Additionally, they maintain that

time discounting

and equity are two other variables that play an important role in criminality.





refers to the immediate rewards that result from committing the crime vis-a-vis the punishment

that may result from committing the crime, or the time that it would take to earn the reward by noncriminal


means. Because people differ in their ability to delay gratification, some persons may be more prone to


committing criminal acts than others. Moreover, judgments of

equity may result in the commission of a

criminal act. The gains associated with committing the crime may help to restore a person’s feelings of being

treated unjustly by society. Wilson and Herrnstein hypothesize that there are certain constitutional factors

(such as intelligence and variations is physiological arousal) that determine how a person weighs the gains

and losses associated with committing a criminal act. According to Wilson and Herrnstein, physiological

arousal determines the ease in which people are classically conditioned; therefore, people who are unable to

associate negative feelings with committing crime will not be deterred from committing criminal acts. In

addition, they argue that impulsive, poorly socialized children of low intelligence are at the greatest risk of

becoming criminals. However, they have only demonstrated that low intelligence and crime occur together

frequently; they have not demonstrated that low intelligence is the cause of crime.


Wilson, J.Q. & Herrnstein, R. (1985).

Crime and Human Nature.

New York: Simon and Schuster.

Wrightsman, L.S., Nietzel, M.T., & Fortune, W.H. (1994).



Psychology and the Legal System

. Belmont:Brooks Cole Publishing





Jeremy Bentham

Described as a philosopher, jurist, and reformer, Jeremy Bentham is possibly best known as one of the

leading proponents of Utilitarianism. Although he was a devoted scholar who spent much of his life writing

about legal reform, he published little. Regardless, Bentham had a profound effect on the politics of his day,

influenced many of his contemporaries (including eminent British philosopher John Stuart Mill), and

introduced a number of terms and definitions, which are still used today in the study of philosophy,

economics, and politics.

Bentham was born February 15, 1748, in Houndsditch, near London, into a family of attorneys. He was

educated at Oxford and admitted to the bar, but decided not to follow in the footsteps of his father and

grandfather. Instead of practicing law, Bentham chose to pursue a career in legal, political, and social reform,


applying principles of ethical philosophy to these endeavors.


He was greatly influenced by the work of Claude-Adrien Helvétius, a French philosopher who believed that


all persons are intellectually equal and that differences arise solely from educational opportunities. Helvetius


also formulated a theory that good is measured by the degree of self-contentment experienced by a person,


and that self-interest is the compelling force for all action. This latter belief had a profound effect on


Bentham, who incorporated the idea in the formulation of the basic principles of utilitarianism.


In 1789, Bentham gained public attention with the publication of his

Introduction to the Principles of Morals

and Legislation


, which set forth his fundamental principles. He believed that the greatest happiness for the

greatest number is the basis of morality. Happiness and pleasure were the same, and included social,


intellectual, and moral as well as physical pleasures. According to Bentham, each pleasure has certain


characteristics, including intensity and duration, and he established a scale of measurement to judge the


worth of a pleasure or a pain.


Bentham further opined that each person strives to do what makes him or her happiest. The happiness of an


individual and the General Welfare are complementary; the achievement of the greatest amount of happiness


is the goal of morality.


Bentham applied his views to reform legislation, feeling that the purpose of the law was to maximize total


happiness within the limitations of government. As a result, he achieved great advances in prison reform,


Criminal Law, civil service, and insurance and was active in the compilation of laws into comprehensible




Bentham is particularly noted for his theories of punishment. He claimed that all punishment required


justification, because he believed that all punishment is inherently evil. Bentham also believed that to a


utilitarian such as himself, real justice is less important than apparent justice. In other words, Bentham


believed that seeing justice done is more important than justice actually being done.


Influenced by the work of Italian philosopher

CESARE BECCARIA, Bentham formed some harsh notions of


punishment, such as his belief that in certain cases torture could be justified. He wrote that punishment was a


relatively weak disincentive against Recidivism, and that there is always a risk that an offender will commit


another offense. He suggested that torture removes this risk because torture ceases immediately when a


subject complies with the demands of authority. Of course, this idea discounts the question of whether the


subject can in fact comply.


As a theorist of punishment, Bentham was naturally interested in the English penal system. His studies led


him to develop a model of an English prison that applied his theories of punishment to incarceration. He


called his model the “Panopticon.” The Panopticon was a prison building—and a whole system of


incarceration—that allowed guards total surveillance and physical control over prison inmates. Writing of




the Panopticon, Bentham claimed that hard labor, constant surveillance and monitoring, and solitary


confinement (for purposes of reflection and repentance) were fundamental requirements needed to reform


and rehabilitate criminal offenders. This theory builds upon the notion that punishment can be the means to


make an offender lead a life of moral and civil rectitude.


Bentham attempted to persuade President James Madison to adopt a code of laws that he himself had


devised. The philosopher was careful to cite existing rules and previous cases to illustrate that his legal


theories were sound. Madison rejected Bentham’s idea in 1811, but in the 1830s, a group of U.S. reformers


adopted several of his policies with the objective of formulating a simplified code of law.


Criminal Personality Approach


Samuel Yochelson Stanton E. Samenow


Yochelson & Samenow’s theory rejects the determinism that is present in other theories and approaches.


They arrive at conclusions similar to the personality-disorders and moral development theorists, but their


view of the causes of these criminal traits are more grounded in the idea of free will of the individual.


The five basic assumptions of this theory are:


1. The roots of criminality lie in the way people think and make their decisions.


2. Criminals think and act differently than other people, even from a very young age.


3. Criminals are, by nature, irresponsible, impulsive, self-centered, and driven by fear and anger.


4. Deterministic explanations of crime result from believing the criminal who is seeking




5. Crime occurs because the criminal wills it or chooses it, and it is this choice they make that


rehabilitation must deal with.


References: Holman & Quinn, 1992, pp. 115 – 118.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 34 other followers

September 2011
« Aug   Feb »


Blog Stats

  • 15,564 hits

Top Rated

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 34 other followers

%d bloggers like this: