Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 3: Theories of Crime:
Learning and Environment
CHAPTER 3: Theories of Crime: Learning and Environment
1. Describe the primary differences between psychodynamic, learning, and social
learning theories of crime
2. Identify the key principles of psychodynamic theories and explain how these
principles relate to our understanding of criminal behaviour.
3. Describe the major predictors of crime from the perspective of “control” theories,
such as Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime.
4. Describe the principles of classical and operant conditioning.
5. Explain the role of classical conditioning in Eysenck’s biosocial theory of crime.
6. Identify the key elements of Sutherland’s differential association theory and Akers’s
social learning theory of crime.
7. Examine the personal, interpersonal, and community-reinforcement theory of crime
proposed by Andrews and Bonta.
In explaining the causes of crime, psychodynamic theories emphasize the inability of
internal psychic forces to control antisocial impulses, learning theories emphasize the role
of associative learning and stress the importance of environmental factors in shaping
criminal behaviour, and social learning theories emphasize the role of vicarious
conditioning in the crime acquisition process, focusing on the cognitive mechanisms that
facilitate learning in social settings.
Psychodynamic theories of crime are based on several key principles, including the
existence of internal psychic forces, such as the id, ego, or superego, that are supposed to
develop through a series of psychosexual stages and control the antisocial impulses that
are assumed to be an inherent part of human nature but sometimes do not develop
normally because of traumatic childhood experiences (often centring on problematic
Many psychodynamic theories of crime can be thought of as control theories in that they
emphasize factors that control people’s behaviour and prevent them from committing
crime. Two of the most popular control theories are: (1) Hirschi’s social control theory,
which suggests that people don’t commit crime because of the bonds they have with
society, including attachments to significant others, commitment to conventional
behaviour, involvement in conventional pursuits, and belief in common rule systems; and
(2) Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime, which suggests that people don’t
commit crime because they possess a high degree of self-control, gained largely as a
result of effective parenting practices.
Classical conditioning is a form of learning that takes place when an unconditioned
stimulus (e.g., food) that produces an unconditioned response (e.g., salivation) is paired
Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 39 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective Chapter 3: Theories of Crime:
Learning and Environment
with a neutral stimulus (e.g., a tone) such that, over time, a conditioned response (e.g.,
salivation) is reproduced using only the previously neutral stimulus (now referred to as
the conditioned stimulus). Operant conditioning, on the other hand, is a form of learning
that takes place by experiencing environmental consequences caused by behaviour (e.g.,
reinforcement and punishment).
In Eysenck’s biosocial theory of crime, he argues that criminals are deficient with
respect to their conditionability, a process he thought was important in the socialization
or conscience-building process. Eysenck argued that the “conscience” is essentially a set
of classically-conditioned emotional responses that, when well-developed, decreases the
likelihood that people will exhibit antisocial behaviour.
Sutherland’s differential association theory emphasizes that criminal behaviour is
learned when we interact with others, especially those who are important to us, and get
exposed to a higher proportion of antisocial rather than prosocial attitudes.
Akers’s social learning theory builds on differential association theory by explicitly
addressing the mechanisms by which we learn to commit crime. His theory emphasizes
the role of operant conditioning in the crime acquisition process, whereby people learn to
commit crime as a result of a personal history of being reinforced for that activity, but
also the role of vicarious conditioning, whereby people learn to commit crime by
observing that activity being reinforced in other people, especially intimate personal
Andrews and Bonta’s PIC–R theory of crime is influenced by a behavioural and
cognitive social learning perspective. The theory emphasizes many different potential
paths into crime, and crime is thought to be determined both by events that precede the
behaviour and by events that follow it. These events are believed to gain control over
one’s behaviour primarily by signalling various rewards and costs for different classes of
behaviour, which can be either additive or subtractive. The controlling properties of
antecedent and consequent events are assumed to be acquired from multiple sources,
including the individual, other people, the act itself, and other aspects of the situation.
Psychologists attempt to explain why people get involved in crime in a
few different ways.
psychologists attempt to explain criminal behaviour, focusing on theories
that emphasize learning and the environment.
variables such as a lack of parental supervision, the presence of
procriminal role models, and positive reinforcement from friends for
committing antisocial acts affect the lives of people
three general perspectives on crime—psychodynamic, learning, and social
learning perspectives—discuss specific theories that fall into each of these
Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 40 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective ChLearning and Environmentme:
includes Hirschi’s social control theory, Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general
theory of crime, Eysenck’s biosocial theory, Akers’s social learning
theory, and Andrews and Bonta’s personal, interpersonal, and community-
2. Psychodynamic Theories:
Some of the most important theories of crime in recent history draw on
psychodynamic principles (Basic Psychodynamic Principles: The Id, Ego,
From a psychodynamic perspective, humans are thought to be inherently
antisocial, driven by pleasure-seeking and destructive impulses
According to this perspective, crime generally occurs when these (often
unconscious) impulses are not adequately controlled.
This is thought to happen when internal psychic forces tasked with the job
of regulating such impulses fail to develop as they should, typically due to
traumatic childhood experiences.
In examining those who have committed murder, one expert stated that
there is one common characteristic . . . all the murderers were intensely
tormented due to serious traumatic situations, primarily experienced in
the earliest childhood
References to “inner drives,” “traumatic situations,” and “protecting
defences” are commonplace in psychodynamic explanations of crime
experiences “in the earliest childhood” are important, and internal forces
are meant to “curb” the potentially dangerous impulses that supposedly
reside within us
Freud and his followers relied on a set of psychic structures thought to
develop throughout childhood and adolescence to form a dynamic
Psychoanalysts believe that pleasure-seeking and destructive impulses
originate in the id, part of an individual’s personality that is present at
birth and represents unconscious, primitive, and instinctual desires.
The id is thought to be governed by the pleasure principle
it seeks immediate pleasure with little consideration of the undesirable
consequences that may result if an impulse is acted upon.
These potentially destructive forces are believed to be controlled in one
of two ways:
Psychoanalysts believe that the activity of the id is opposed by the
next personality structure to develop, the ego, which attempts to
mediate between one’s primal needs and society’s demands. The
ego is guided by the reality principle: its development coincides
with the emergence of reality-oriented thinking and it allows the id
to function in socially acceptable ways by suppressing the id’s
impulses until appropriate situations arise
in challenging id drives, the ego is guided by the superego, the
last of the three personality systems to develop according to
psychoanalysts. The superego represents the internalization of
Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 41 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective ChLearning and Environmentme:
group standards, typically conveyed to the child through parental
care and discipline, and it acts as a moral regulator, tasked with the
job of overseeing the choices we make.
The superego is thought to consist of two sub-systems: the conscience,
which allows an individual to distinguish between right and wrong and
forces the ego to inhibit id pursuits that are out of line with one’s morals,
and the ego ideal, which represents the socially accepted standards to
which we all aspire.
Freud believed that personality development occurs across five
psychosexual stages and argued that difficulties resolving conflicts within
any given stage can potentially result in problems with personality
development, which would be apparent in one’s behaviour.
Much of Freud’s thinking about these psychosexual stages is now
incorporated into our common everyday thinking about the personalities
of the people we interact with.
Problems that result in superego formation, which are generally thought to
stem from a failure to identify with prosocial parental figures, are of
particular interest to those attempting to develop explanations of crime.
psychoanalysts have proposed three main sources of criminal behaviour,
each relating to inadequate superego formation.
Stage Description: oral
Begins at birth and ends around age one to one-and-a-half.
The child is preoccupied with seeking gratification through sucking and
The primary conflict is weaning, which deprives the child of sensory and
psychological pleasures such as nursing and feeling cared for by the
Stage Description: anal
Anal Begins around age one to one-and-a-half with the introduction of
toilet training and lasts until about age two to three.
The primary conflict is one of control, as the child has to learn to delay the
pleasure associated with bodily expulsion.
Stage Description: phallic
Phallic Begins around age two to three and lasts until age five to six. The
primary conflict is sexual.
the child becomes interested in their genitals and begins to develop an
unconscious desire for the opposite-sex parent and fear of retribution from
the same-sex parent.
This conflict is called the Oedipus complex in boys. Through fear of
castration (i.e., castration anxiety) and gradual identification with the
father, which allows the boy to possess his mother vicariously, the young
male becomes indoctrinated into the appropriate sexual role in life and
develops a superego.
The same conflict is called the Electra complex in girls. The young
female recognizes that, unlike her father, she has no penis and blames this
on her mother (i.e., penis envy). By gradually identifying with the mother
Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 42 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective ChLearning and Environmentme:
figure, girls begin to resolve this conflict, though Freud believed that
females remain slightly fixated at the phallic stage and therefore never
develop as strong a superego as boys.
Stage Description: oral
Latent Begins around age five to six and lasts until puberty (age twelve or
the sexual drive becomes de-emphasized and repressed sexual energy gets
redirected to asexual pursuits such as same-sex friendships.
Stage Description: genital
Begins in adolescence and lasts until adulthood.
Interest in the genitals is reborn and the individual focuses on a search for
intimacy with an opposite-sex adult partner.
The energy that can be devoted to these pursuits depends on the extent to
which the conflicts encountered in the previous stages have been
The individual who commits crime as a result of a harsh superego is
sometimes referred to as a neurotic criminal
The existence of a harsh superego is assumed to lead to pathological levels
of unconscious guilt (typically over unresolved infantile desires) and
criminal behaviour is meant to subconsciously invite punishment in an
attempt to resolve this guilt.
Individuals who commit crime because of a weak superego are commonly
associated with the psychopathic personality
Possessing a superego that fails to sufficiently regulate the primitive and
instinctual needs of the id, this type of individual is typically “egocentric,
impulsive, guiltless, and unempathic”
Many violent offenders, including serial killers, are often assumed to
commit crimes due to a weak or underdeveloped superego.
The third type of criminal commits crime as a result of a deviant superego.
for these individuals, superego standards have developed, but those
standards are thought to reflect deviant identification (i.e., identification
with a deviant role model).
Freud (1916) believed that many criminals are motivated by a sense of
guilt and a need to deal with this guilt by being punished through legal
Today, psychologists generally accept that neurotic criminals of this kind
are very rare, although some appear to exist.
3. Psychodynamic Theories of Crime:
While these general categories of criminal types (harsh, weak, or deviant
Superegos) are useful, they provide inadequate information about the
actual causes of crime, other than the fact that problems with superego
development may play an important role.
Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 43 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective ChLearning and Environmentme:
This simplistic approach to understanding crime also fails to address key
issues with respect to what we know about criminal behaviour.
the consistent finding that males are more likely than females to commit
crime does not fit well with the psychoanalytic assumption that girls are
less likely than boys to develop a strong superego (due to their inability to
resolve psychosexual conflicts, especially at the phallic stage)
to better understand what causes crime, at least from a psychodynamic
perspective, we now turn our attention to a discussion of various theories
of crime that relate to this perspective.
the influence of Freud’s ideas can be seen in many common approaches to
Bowlby’s Theory of Maternal Deprivation
The theory of maternal deprivation, draws heavily on the
psychodynamic perspective and is a popular theory for how juvenile
Consistent with psychodynamic thinking, Bowlby’s view was that young
children require consistent and continuous maternal care in order for them
to develop normally (i.e., to resolve the many psychological conflicts that
children encounter throughout their psychosexual development)
Disruption to the mother–child relationship will have many harmful and
potentially irreversible long-term effects, especially in relation to the
child’s ability to establish meaningful prosocial relationships.
Lacking such abilities, the child will not develop the means to control his
conduct (i.e., destructive impulses) and will be more likely to exhibit
antisocial patterns of behaviour
What now seems clear is that maternal deprivation is not a critical factor
to a child’s healthy development (i.e., a paternal figure can provide
adequate care), that any damage caused by early deprivation is not
necessarily irreversible, and that the theory over-predicts juvenile
delinquency given that many individuals who experience maternal
deprivation do not get involved in crime.
Unravelling Juvenile Delinquency: The Work of Glueck and Glueck
family discord in general (e.g., a lack of parental supervision) is associated
with delinquent behavior and this variable is included in several theories
of crime that have received more support than Bowlby’s theory
The work of Glueck and Glueck proposed was less a formal theory of
crime and were heavily influenced by psychodynamic thinking
the primary interests were discovering the causes of crime and assessing
the effectiveness of correctional treatment in controlling criminal
One of the approaches was to conduct cross-sectional research
comparing the lives of juvenile delinquents with non-juveniles
the Gluecks also conducted longitudinal research on the delinquent boys
The Gluecks took a multidisciplinary approach to examining delinquency;
Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 44 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective ChLearning and Environmentme:
Based on their findings, the Gleucks were able to provide a portrait of the
delinquent: these individuals are far more than the non-delinquents, are of
the essentially mesomorphic [strong and muscular], energetic type, with
tendencies to restless and uninhibited expression of instinctual-affective
energy and to direct and concrete, rather than symbolic and abstract,
It is evidently difficult for them to develop the high degree of flexibility of
adaptation, self-management, self-control, and sublimation of primitive
tendencies and self-centred desires demanded by the complex and
confused culture of the times.
attributed the differences between delinquents and non-delinquents to
parenting factors, the primary source for superego development.
The’ findings clearly indicated a marked difference between these groups
across a range of parenting variables: a greater incidence of emotional
disturbances, mental retardation, alcoholism, and criminality.
Parents of the delinquent boys were also less educated, less likely to stay
together, and less ambitious.
the parents of the delinquents showed greater carelessness in the
supervision of their children and often appeared neglectful.
a greater proportion of delinquent families were found to lack
cohesiveness, warmth, and respect for the integrity of family members,
and fewer of the delinquents were affectionately attached to their parents,
especially their fathers.
the Gluecks proposed a “tentative causal formula” that could, in their
view, be used to predict who would become engaged in juvenile
by drawing on their physical, temperamental, attitudinal, psychological,
and socio-cultural data they could make accurate predictions, from a very
young age, about the likelihood of children getting involved in crime.
recent research provides support for many of the important variables
associated with criminal involvement that were highlighted by the
Gleucks, especially variables related to peers, family, and school
Hirschi’s Control Theories
Although not traditionally considered psychodynamic theories, it has been
argued that Hirschi’s control theories contain important psychodynamic
views all humans as having the potential to exhibit antisocial behaviour
incorporated into his theories of crime ideas about superego- and ego-type
mechanisms that play a central role in controlling one’s antisocial
Although Hirschi does not appear to rely on Freudian thinking to the same
extent that the Gluecks did, the major question that he considers when
attempting to understand crime is a classic psychodynamic one:
it is not why people violate the law, but rather why more people don’t
violate the law.
Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 45 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective ChLearning and Environmentme:
According to Hirschi’s original social control theory, or social bond
theory, the reason why people don’t violate the law is because of social
controls, or “the bond of the individual to society”
Hirschi presented four interrelated types of social bonds that are
collectively thought to promote socialization and conformity: attachment,
commitment, involvement, and belief.
According to Hirschi (2002), “delinquent acts result when an individual’s
bond to society is weak or broken”
1. The first bond, attachment, refers to attachment and interest in others,
most importantly parents, friends, and teachers. Hirschi (2002)
believed that one’s acceptance of and abidance with social norms and
ideals depend on attachments to other human beings (particularly the
depth and quality of such attachments). One does not commit crime,
partly because one does not wish to jeopardize these valued
relationships. In psychodynamic terms, attachment represents the ego-
2. The second bond, commitment, refers to the time, energy, and effort
placed in conventional behaviour (e.g., “getting an education, building
up a business, acquiring a reputation for virtue”; Horschi proposed
social control theory to explain why people conform to societal rules.
Later, he and Gottfredson proposed their general theory of crime.
Hirschi argued, people who have an investment in conventional
pursuits run a heightened risk of losing that investment if they become
involved in crime. Commitment serves the same theoretical value as
the ego, according to Hirschi.
3. The third bond, involvement, refers to the time and energy one spends
taking part in activities that are in line with the conventional interests
of society (e.g., school). Hirschi argues that heavy involvement in
conventional activities limits the time that is available to participate in
criminal pursuits, for, as Hirschi says, “[t]he person involved in
conventional activities is tied to appointments, deadlines, working
hours, plans, and the like”
4. belief refers to one’s conviction to the view that people should obey
common rules. This entails a respect for a societal value system,
including a respect for the law and institutions that enforce the law. If
such beliefs are weak or totally absent, involvement in crime is
assumed to be more likely. This bond has clear parallels with the
conscience part of the superego.
conducted study of delinquents and non-delinquents, using a cross-
Hirschi’s analysis largely supported the core concepts of social control
theory and, the major findings of the Gluecks; Andrews and Bonta and it
has become the most frequently discussed and tested theory in
recent research suggests that Hirschi’s theory might need to be re-
assessed, at least to some extent
Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 46 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective ChLearning and Environmentme:
Several findings are particularly important:
1. in Hirschi’s theory, attachment refers to one’s relationship with his/her
parents, peers, and school. In each case, stronger attachments are
thought to result in more conformity and less delinquency.
2. With respect to peer attachment Hirschi believed that its presence or
absence was important, not whether the peers were involved in
delinquent acts (i.e., even for youths who were attached to delinquent
peers, the stronger the attachment, the less likely the individual was to
3. Now attachment to peers is thought to lead to conformity only when
the peers are not delinquent
4. interacting with antisocial peers is now considered to be one of the
strongest predictors of criminal involvement
Hirschi and Gottfredson General Theory of Crime
In 1990, Hirschi and Gottfredson, proposed a more refined and
parsimonious control theory
Gottfredson and Hirschi’s theory argues that self control, internalized
early in life, is the primary determinant of crime.
believed that crime is not an inevitable consequence for those who lack
opportunities to commit crime are also crucially important.
low self-control in the presence of criminal opportunities is assumed to
explain an individual’s propensity to commit crimes.
argued that, over time, people with low self-control will inevitably become
more deeply involved in a criminal lifestyle.
theory of crime is referred to as a general theory of crime because they
believe that it can account for all crime in addition to a range of other
behaviours that have been deemed “analogous” to criminal behaviour
(e.g., alcohol, drug, and tobacco use).
self-control can explain “all crime, at all times, and, for that matter many
forms of behaviour that are not sanctioned by the state”
crimes are “short lived, immediately gratifying, easy, simple, and
exciting” are appealing to those who are unable to resist temptations of
the moment, those who are insensitive to the needs of others, and those
who are unable to consider the potential long-term negative consequences
of their own behaviour;
in addition to being the primary cause of crime, a low level of self control
is also thought to be at the root of a range of other social consequences,
many of which constitute the causes of crime in other theories.
Gluecks, Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) believe that the level of self-
control one possesses depends on the quality of parenting in a child’s early
their general theory of crime emphasizes effective monitoring of
children’s behaviour, recognition of deviant behaviour when it occurs, and
consistent and proportionate punishment of rule violations.
Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 47 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective ChLearning and Environmentme:
children whose parents care about them, monitor them, and discipline
them appropriately will likely develop the self-control that is needed to
behave in a prosocial manner.
Such children will be “more capable of delaying gratification, more
sensitive to the interests and desires of others, more independent, more
willing to place restraints on his activities, and more unlikely to use force
or violence to attain his ends”
Children without such an upbringing will tend to be “impulsive,
insensitive, physical (as opposed to mental), risk-taking, short-sighted, and
explains the increased likelihood of these individuals giving in to the
temptations presented by crime.
the general theory of crime does recognize other sources of socialization
believe that the role of these other sources in influencing one’s level of
self-control is severely limited given that self-control is assumed to be
established very early in life and remain stable throughout the lifespan.
meta-analytic research supports the view that there is a relationship
between self-control and crime, even when self-control is defined using a
broad range of behavioural and attitudinal measures and applied to a broad
range of samples
meta-analysis also clearly showed that, while self-control is an important
predictor of criminal behaviour, it is not the sole cause of crime, given that
it only accounted for approximately 19 percent of the variance in criminal
Despite the fact that the general theory of crime is reasonably well
supported, several criticisms exist:
1. the concept of self-control: operational measures of self-control must
be developed that are separate from measures of deviant acts or a
propensity toward committing such acts.
2. criminal involvement won’t decline with age, which is a consistent
empirical finding: between-individual differences in self-control will
remain stable over time and be unaffected by social (or other) factors
3. not dealing with important questions around opportunities for crime
Psychodynamic theories of crime and the perspective on human behaviour
has long been a guiding force for the assessment and treatment of
have been incorporated into several popular theories of crime: each relies
on different terminology, and all the theories focus on inner drives that
lead individuals to behave in an antisocial manner
speak to psychic mechanisms that prevent people from behaving in this
way; and they emphasize the role of parent–child relationships
some psychodynamically-oriented theories of crime have received
substantially more support than others, but each has played an important
role in the development of our thinking about crime and criminals.
Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 48 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective ChLearning and Environmentme:
These theories have even had an influence on behaviouristic, or learning,
theories of crime, despite the fact that behaviourism is commonly thought
to be at odds with the psychodynamic approach much work in the area of
crime by learning theorists has been devoted to determining the exact
learning processes that lead to the internalization of moral inhibitions—
what is referred to as “socialization.”.
4. Learning Theories and Crime:
An important approach in psychology sees offending as learned.
Learning refers to “a change in pre-existing behaviour or mental processes
that occurs as a result of experience”
This emphasis on learning is what distinguishes learning theories of crime
from psychodynamic theories of crime.
the principles of classical conditioning originated with the work of Ivan
In classical conditioning terms, the unconditioned stimulus (UCS—food)
elicited an unconditioned response (UCR—salivation).
By repeatedly pairing the UCS with a lab assistant, this previously neutral
stimulus (the lab assistant) became associated with the UCS and took on
the power of a conditioned stimulus (CS).
After repeated pairings, the CS, even when presented in isolation, began to
elicit a response—salivation—which is termed the conditioned response
Pavlov showed that this interpretation of his observations was correct.
After repeatedly pairing the delivery of food (UCS) with a tone, Pavlov
found that the dogs began to salivate (CR) when the tone (CS) was
presented without the food.
when the tone was repeatedly sounded in the absence of food, in a process
of extinction, it gradually lost its stimulus quality- the dogs salivated
initially when the tone was presented, but this eventually stopped.
The principles of classical conditioning operate in both animals and
repeatedly pairing a conditioned response was found to generalize to other
similar stimuli (a process known as stimulus generalization).
assumed to be a powerful way of shaping many aspects of human
Some view the development of sexually deviant fantasies/behaviours as
the result, at least in part, of classical conditioning
treatment approaches have been developed for sex offenders that attempt
to decrease sexual arousal to deviant objects (e.g., children) through
In one common approach, aversive conditioning, the client is
exposed to an unpleasant stimulus while experiencing sexual
Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 49 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective ChLearning and Environmentme:
arousal, the goal being to create an aversion to the source of the
several methods of aversive conditioning are available.
Using covert aversive conditioning, the goal is to have the offender
pair an imagined aversive consequence with his deviant fantasies
or behaviour in order to eliminate such fantasies or behaviour.
A standard technique consists of having the offender listen to a
story that contains the following three parts: (1) the offender’s
preferred deviant stimulus and a buildup of sexual arousal (2) an
aversive consequence that causes intense disgust, pain, or
humiliation and (3) release from the adverse consequence by
reversing the activity
Overt aversive conditioning techniques have the same goal as covert
techniques, but actual rather than imagined aversive stimuli are presented
during or immediately after the deviant stimulus.
The deviant stimulus may involve slides, videos, or movies
depicting the deviant experience or object.
The aversive stimuli may be electric shocks, foul odors, nausea-
inducing drugs, or even shame
Once the deviant arousal has been eliminated, it is often necessary
to create non-deviant arousal to appropriate stimuli and arousal
reconditioning is used for this purpose.
the goal of arousal reconditioning is to weaken deviant sexual arousal and
simultaneously strengthen appropriate arousal.
Forms of Aversive Conditioning in the Treatment of Sex Offenders
Eysenck’s Biosocial Theory of Crime
the principles of classical conditioning are built into some very popular
and arguably well-validated theories of criminal behaviour.
Eysenck (1916–1997), argued that crime can largely be explained by
individual differences in the functioning of the nervous system, which
impacts the degree to which people learn from environmental stimuli such
as parental discipline.
Eysenck also believed that differences in nervous system functioning
shape one’s personality and behaviour, and he made predictions about
personality differences between antisocial and prosocial individuals
Specifically, Eysenck believed that criminals and other antisocial
individuals are deficient with respect to classical conditioning, or
conditionability, a process he thought was important in the socialization or
Raine (1997) argues in his discussion of Eysenck’s views on classical
conditioning and crime that . . the crucial mechanism that stops most of us
from committing criminal and antisocial acts is the concept of conscience;
Eysenck argues that what we call “conscience” is a set of classically-
conditioned emotional responses.
Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 50 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian Perspective ChLearning and Environmentme:
The greater the individual’s ability to develop and form classically-
conditioned emotional responses, the greater the conscience development,
and the less likely will be the probability of becoming antisocial . . .
socialized individuals develop a feeling of uneasiness at even
contemplating a criminal act (robbery, assault) presumably because such
thoughts elicit representations or “unconscious” memories of punishment
early in life for milder but related misdemeanors (theft, behaving
research supporting the predictions:
1. problems with conditionability are generally more pronounced in
people with antisocial inclinations (e.g., psychopaths).
2. “children who are highly conditionable and who have antisocial
parents will become ‘socialized’ into their parents’ antisocial habits
3. children who condition poorly will, at least in this environment,
paradoxically avoid becoming antisocial” .
4. antisocial boys from higher-class (prosocial) homes showed relatively
poor conditioning, while antisocial boys from lower-class (antisocial)
homes showed relatively good conditionability
5. The opposite pattern was found for the boys who were prosocial.
criticism against Eysenck’s theory of crime relate to the predictions (not
dealt with here) that he made regarding personality differences between
antisocial and prosocial individuals some criticisms have also been
brought against Eyenck’s ideas about classical con