SOC 2760 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Essent, Tums, Arson

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Unit 4
Reading 2: Biological Explanations of Homicide
The first explanations for homicide: biological
Physical Deficiencies:
o Cesare Lombroso is credited as the founding father of the distinct discipline of
Was on of the first people to claim a relationship between physical
appearance and criminal tendencies
o Darwinian Theory of evolution: criminals represented a form of degeneracy
manifest in physical characteristics
Long lower jaws, big ears, thin lips, curly black hair, aquiline noses
People continued to make connections with physique and criminality
Hooton (1939): murderers were older, heavier, larger in the chest,
broader in the jaw with heavy shoulders
This is comparing them to other criminals
Lomboro: viewed criminals as physically inferior,
Actually physically superior
Bull and McAlpine: suggest that people often have stereotypes of the
facial appearance of criminals and that such stereotypes might affect
judgements of guilt or innocence in court
o Wilson and Gottfredson: argue that individuals differ in their underlying criminal
tendencies, and that whether a person chooses to commit crime in a given
situation depends upon whether the perceived benefits (material gain) outweigh
the perceived potential (the risks of being caught)
Physical appearance, genes,intelligence and personality
Developmental Factors: broken and abusive families and schooling
Wider Social Context: economic conditions, communities and labour
o Herrnstein and Murray: claimed IQ is mainly determined by inherited genes, and
that people with low IQ are more likely to commit crimes
They lack foresight and are unable to distinguish right from wrong
o These two are both similar because they argue that people differ in their
underlying criminal propensities hey
MAIN FACTOR IN THEORY: low self-control- meaning people with low
self-control are impulsive, take risks, have low cognitive and academic
skills, self-centred, and have low empathy and short time horizons
They are vulnerable to temptations of the moment
o A criminal gene?
Psychological Explanations of Homicide
· psychological theories are essentially located within the positivist tradition: they generally operate on the
assumption that the violent offender is somehow distinct from other individuals.
- trying to isolate psyche or personality structure that ‘make a difference’
- studying the subconscious mind and the impact on thought processes and behaviour
- exploring how and why people react to the environment in different ways
· Psychoanalytic and Clinical Approaches
Psychoanalysis: a branch of psychiatry (and clinical psychology) with central a concern in the
treatment of behavioural problems.
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- Psychoanalytic theorists view criminal behaviour to be the result of mental conflict
(unconscious or subconscious mind); said to be the result of a disruption during the
psychosexual development in childhood.
Psychoanalytical (psychodynamic):
· Sigmund Freud (18591939)
o interworking of the mind and personality configurations
o how these components affected (criminal) behaviour
· Freud & Psychoanalysis
Ø The unconscious
Ø most primitive aspect of personality
Ø driven by biological urges and seeks pleasure: can be seen as potentially damaging if not controlled
(does not take account negative consequences due to the pursuit of urges)
Ø conscious, developed by learning
Ø (assuming there was a typo in the article, feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken) the ego is formed as
individuals learn of the negative and unpleasant consequences that can follow from the
uncontrolled pursuits of the id
Super Ego:
Ø unconscious in operation
Ø the aspect of personality that has internalized the moral and ethical rule and regulations of society
(through socialization)
Ø ** represents the fully socialized and conforming member of society
- The id demands pleasure; the super-ego demands control and repression
Freud’s 2 models:
1. views certain forms of criminal behaviour as the result of mental disturbance or illness
(arson and certain sexual offences)
2. looking to the development of the conscience as of fundamental importance in the
socialization of the child it is believed that some criminals possessed a “weak conscience”
Psychoanalytic Approach to Violence and Homicide:
- researchers have claimed a connection between internal psychological conflicts and
subsequent involvement in crime
- Gallagher (1987) suggested that abnormal and violent behaviour stems from conflict
between the id and superego due to unresolved childhood experiences
- Guttmacher (1973)
o classify murderers: 10-scale classification
‘average’ murderer was free of any prominent mental illness, but possessed a
defective conscience (family life, emotional deprivation and inadequate
nurturing contribute to a defective conscience)
‘psychopathic’ personality, a non-feeling and insensitive individual who has a
defective conscience (defective ego structure, failing to profit from
experience, repeating the same mistakes in judgment and control)
- Tanay (1976)
o three ‘types’:
‘ego dystonic’:
Kills against conscious wishes due to altered state of consciousness. (part of
the psychic structure is split off from the rest of the personality)
‘ego syntonic
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