Chapter 3 discusses various theories grouped into four categories which attempt to explain why people commit aggressive crimes.
However, nearly everyone has their own personal theory regarding why certain individuals are prone to commit aggressive crimes based on their own opinions and experiences.
- Write an essay (Minimum 500 words) that explores your personal views about what causes people to commit violent crimes and how the material in this lesson has changed your understanding of the causes of violent crime.
In the first part of this essay, briefly discuss your own personal theory regarding the cause of violent crime before reading and studying the material presented.
- Categorize which of the four major categories of theories (regarding the cause of aggressive crime), your own personal beliefs, or theory about the cause of crime, fell.
In the second part of your paper, discuss how your personal views about the causes of aggressive crime has changed as a result of studying the material presented. Indicate, at least, one of the theories about the cause of violent crime that was significant in changing your personal beliefs about the cause of violent crime.
When completing your assignments, all spelling, punctuation, grammar, formatting, and citations should be written in APA style. Please see your instructor for any further instructions.
THE FOUR MAIN CONTRIBUTOR THEORIES FOR WHY PEOPLE COMMIT AGGRESSIVE CRIMES
One of the main contributions of psychology to the legal system is providing explanations for why people engage in criminal behavior.
The four main categories these theories fall into are: Sociological, Biological, Psychological and Social-Psychological.
Sociological theories typically look at subcultures and how they influence behavior.
- For example, those at the bottom of the socioeconomic continuum may feel it is fine to take from those that are very rich.
- The main drawback to sociological theories are they have problems explaining cases where a person who was raised in an upper-class household commits a crime.
Biological theories suggest that genetic or biological abnormalities increase the propensity for criminal behavior.
- Much of this research will look at the behavior of identical and fraternal twins.
- These studies have found what appears to be a strong genetic predisposition to violent behaviors.
- Obviously, a person with violent tendencies, compared to a person with self-control, is more likely to violate the law.
- Other studies show that a low IQ is positively correlated to convictions for violent behavior.
Psychological theories concentrate on personality traits in relation to crime.
- A person with an Antisocial personality disorder will lack a sense of empathy and do not feel remorse for taking advantages of others. Because of this, most antisocials will have contact with the legal system at some point in their lives.
- Another aspect of personality that can lead to illegal activity is the need for stimulation.
- Some people need to experience extreme situations to feel excitement, resulting in committing acts society disapprove of.
While psychological theories make a great deal of intuitive sense, we fail to see a “prototype” criminal personality.
The last group of social-psychological theories tie the individual personality aspects of the person with the influence of the environment.
The interaction of these two forces will vary by individual and situation making prediction more difficult. The environment part of the equation looks at the role of punishment and rewards in make a behavior more likely.
- A child who steals a piece of candy without getting caught is positively rewarded, increasing the odds of the behavior occurring again.
- Conversely, if that same child was caught and punished, the chance of that behavior happening in the future is decreased.
This pattern, however, will be affected by the child’s personality. A risk aversive personality may not have attempted to take the candy in the first place.
As a final example, we can look at the correlation between watching violent television programs and views about violent behavior.
According to Slotsve, del Carmen, Sarver and Villareal-Watkins (2008):
Viewing violence can increase the fear of becoming a victim and a sense of mistrust of others.
Research by George Gerbner and his colleagues (1980) has shown that heavy viewers tend to see the world as dangerous and are more fearful of walking alone in their own neighborhood. This is known as the “mean world syndrome”—believing that the world is a dangerous place.
The more a person watches television, the more suspicious a person is and the greater the person’s expectancy of being involved in real violence (Lefkowits & Huesmann, 1980).
Findings by Nabi and Sullivan (2001) indicated that the amount of television viewing directly influenced prevalence estimates of violence in society, as well as intentions to take protective measures, and indirectly affected mean world attitude.
This effect, however, is tempered by one’s personality. A person who is naturally suspicious of others, compared to a person who is trusting, will be more strongly impacted by watching violence on TV. It is this interaction between the individual and the environmental factors that have to be teased apart in understanding the motivation to engage in crime.