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Lecture 5

CRM 1300 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Null Hypothesis, Reductionism, Nominalism

Course Code
CRM 1300
Sam Alvaro

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Explaining Crime
Explaining Crime
What is a Theory?
Individualistic theories of crime
Sociological theories of crime
Theory and our Everyday Life
Definition of theory: a theory is a set of interrelated propositions, constructed and fitting
together logically, which claims to explain one or more aspects of the world around us
(these certain conditions will cause this type of condition).
What's important?
o Explanations can be described as the stories we tell each other in attempts to
produce some order in our lives;
o Theories outline paths that lead to particular outcomes. They allow us to feel that
we know why something happened, and whether, or not under what conditions, it
is likely to occur again.
o It alters our behaviour/mind.
Aspects of a Good Theory?
Logically sound;
Making sense of conflicting positions
Sensitising ability - can it make sense of the entire position but can say we've missed
o What's been ignored?
Popularity doesn't mean validity.
o Twinkie Defence (popularity) - a guy in the 1970s killed someone due to sugar
overdose of Twinkies.
How Do We Evaluate a Theory?
Scope: the range of phenomena that a theory can explain;
Accuracy: does the theory match empirical reality.
o Also known as the simplest explanation is usually the most correct.
o Ockham's Razor: explaining a thing no more assumptions should be made than
are necessary. The principle is often involved to defend reductionism or
Can the theory be falsified?
o Only one of the things can be true (Null Hypothesis);
o If it cannot be falsified, then it's a tautology - circular reasoning.

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Explaining Crime
Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) (looked at delinquent females as well)
Known as the father of Criminology;
Italian prison doctor
o He would do autopsies and discover the similarities between criminals and they
somehow must be "born" therefore, this is why they create crime.
o Darwinism (Industrial period)
His "born criminal" theory, biological determinism
Heavily influenced by Charles Darwin (impacted many disciplines)
Atavistic Anomalies - Evolutionary throwbacks (people that essentially resemble
Slippery slope because it means isolating a particular human trait as bad.
Until the 1980s, most criminological theories revolved around men.
Socio-biology: The Selfish Gene
Social patterns reflect biological imperatives
Edmund O Wilson's sociobiological (1975):
o For example: in a burning house, a man can only save one between his nuclear
family but saves his son because the son can spread genes more widely
o Selfish gene controls all human destiny;
o Everyone has an innate need to pass on one's own genetic material through
reproduction and elimination of competitors.
o Problematic for things like sexual assault
Accounts for racism, sexism, nepotism, double standards of sexuality.
Research on Genetics
XYY Theory
o Hyper-masculinity, rare condition
Scandinavian Adoption Studies (Mednick)
o Children are more similar to biological parents than to adoptive parents;
o Triplets separated at birth and given to high, middle- and low-income families and
surprisingly all turned out very similar
o Continues to be problematic
Family Lines
o The Jukes - Famous Family in New York
One set of family was criminals, another one followed the law;
A natural tension between nature versus nurture - are we born criminals
and if we are, should we have a preventive measure for it?
Darwinism (Natural Selection)
It doesn't happen amongst humans and don't strengthen the gene pool or cut off certain
parts of it.

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Explaining Crime
Eugenic Movement - strengthen to gene pool by eliminating the weaker ones - sterilised
(chemically castrated) bad people so they can't reproduce. It was state sanctioned, so it
was legal to do it until 1960s.
Crime & Intelligence
Theories of IQ-Crime link based on
o Early comparison of IQ difference between kids in reform schools and kids in
regular schools.
In Canada:
o Alberta's sexual sterilization act and provincial eugenics board.
o Still going into the 1960s, and people with below average intelligence were
Ditch Digger vs. Doctor Son
o Criticism of IQ test - immigrants and doctors are accessed to relevant information.
Supernatural Explanations
Demonic Possession
o Control of an Individual by a supernatural spirit or power, typically identified as
the cause of deviant or criminal behaviour.
o For example: Full-moon, creatures (e.g. vampires, werewolves), allowed elites to
remove the blame.
Early Psychological and Intrapsychic Approaches to Crime
Psychiatric Aspects of Crime
o Henry Maudsley (English medical doctor) described as brilliant, believed that
criminals were "morally degenerate" - lacking in moral development. He played
an instrumental role in laying the legal framework for diminished responsibility as
a result of a mental disease.
o Isaac Ray wrote extensively on the subject of moral insanity and considered it a
disease - never established by a single diagnostic symptom.
o Gustav Aschaffenburg (German pioneer of psychiatric criminology) argued that
we are influenced less by heredity than by our social environment.
Criminal Personality
o A personality type characterized by such traits as anti-social behaviour, social
immaturity, and nervous systems that don't condition well, believed by some to be
typical criminals but also capable of being corrected.
Freud's Intrapsychic Approach (Psychodynamics)
o Freud's theory that behaviour - including criminal behaviour - is an expression of
internal conflict stemming from unresolved, often unconscious experiences during
o Freud used the term ID, EGO, and SUPEREGO to refer to what he believed to be
the 3 basic elements of personality:
ID: represents primitive, instinctual urges (the child);
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