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Psychology (7,818)
PSYC39H3 (177)


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David Nussbaum

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PSYC39 –Psychology and Law: Lecture 3 Theories of Crime: Biological and Evolutionary Pseudo-Explanations (Chapter 2) Monday, September 24, 2012 Historical Context  Franz Gall (1758-1828): relationship between the shape & size of person’s head and personality, ability, behaviours  Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909): criminals possess distinctive physical features; they are evolutionary throwbacks  Charles Darwin: natural selection  Francis Galton: eugenics Researching Biological Explanations of Crime  Behavioural genetics  Molecular biology  Neurochemical approaches o Unfortunately, the text does not explore any of these in detail Genetic and Crime –Twins, Adoption, and Molecular Genetics  Link between genetics and antisocial behaviour: twin and adoption studies o Genetic might be somewhat responsible o Environment may be responsible o Twins: can compare identical with non-identical (share 50% of the same genetics)  Caspi et al.: interaction between MAOA and childhood maltreatment o So what is MAOA and how does it link to childhood maltreatment? o Just another curious biological/behavioural correlation? Hormones and Crime  Link between testosterone and aggression o More testosterone can lead to dominance in social hierarchy o Example: gorilla had higher social hierarchy due to high levels of testosterone (received food first, more female gorillas) o Made people realized that isn’t all biology, but also behaviour that is linked to it o Example: After a hockey game, the team that won had more testosterone (because they won and they were all pumped up) than the other team who had lost  Does testosterone cause aggression, or does aggression cause increases in testosterone? o Both are true  Study of premenstrual syndrome and aggression o Hormone levels are out of control, these fluctuations lead women to become more aggressive o Female aggression manifested differently than in males; express aggression o Adrenal glands produce the testosterone in females Neurotransmitters and Crime  Serotonin – behavioural inhibition, mood regulation; strong correlation between malfunctioning serotonin and aggression  Dopamine – feelings of pleasure; very high & very low levels of dopamine linked to aggression o Linked to predatory aggression  Norepinephrine - reaction to short-term stress; high levels of norepinephrine are correlated with aggression o We will explore a psychobiological model for these and other elements Physiology and Crime  Link between measures of autonomic response (e.g., heart rate, electrodermal activity) and antisocial behaviour o When you sweat, you become more conductable; electricity moves faster  Gray’s arousal model: personality, learning, emotional responses are governed by: o (1) behavioural activation system (BAS) o (2) behavioural inhibition system (BIS)  Antisocial individuals have underactive BIS and overactive BAS  Is this truly explanatory or using 2 nominal hypothetical constructs (BIS and BAS) to rename the set of processes that they are trying to “explain”? Brain and Crime: Neuroimaging  Examines structural and functional characteristics of the brain; use of MRI, CT, PET, SPECT  Raine and Yang (2006): o Structural and/or functional damage results in “antisocial tendency”;  Deficits in 4 areas: frontal lobe, temporal lobe, parietal lobe, cingulate gyrus (Causal Inference without manipulation!) o Natural experiment o Change was made, but not in a controlled way  Raine and Yang: Results o Damage to frontal lobe – a frequent abnormality found in offenders o Impairments to limbic system (controls emotions) and temporal lobe (deals with language) implicated in antisocial behaviour o No single brain structure ultimately necessary for antisocial behaviour; multiple factors Brain and Crime: Neuropsychology  Executive functioning: goal-oriented behaviour, purposive attention, organizational skills, inhibitory control o Morgan and Lilienfeld (2000): poor executive functioning is related to antisocial behaviour  What is a defining component of Executive Function? o Deals with judgment o Poor Inhibitory Control.  How is information processing in criminal behaviour characterized? o Poor Inhibitory Control!! o Criminal behaviour not the only example of poor inhibitory control  Other examples would be: out of control shopping  80% of crimes deals with poor inhibitory control (impulsive) and 20% are planned Other Biological Considerations  Role of prenatal and perinatal complications, improper diet and toxins in antisocial behaviour  Link between hypoglycemia and antisocial behaviour  Toxins: link between lead concentration and antisocial behaviour in children  Elevated levels of manganese linked to attention deficits, ADHD in children  Abnormal fetal development may predispose individuals to antisocial behaviour  Note: None of these are explanatory but all are correlational! o Behaviour caused by many factors Evolutionary Theories of Crime  Focus on ultimate explanations  Darwin: Natural Selection  Psychological mechanisms have been developed through selection o The environment that our ancestors lived and experienced gave rise to certain behaviours  Role of ancestral environment: selection pressures and adaptation; adaptation works its way into the species’ genome Evolution and Crime: What do we Know?  Recurring conflict (over resources, mates, etc.) shaped evolutionary adaptations to include antisocial behaviours  Life history theory – explanation of life-course persistent and adolescent limited offenders  Frequency dependence selection – explanation of psychopathy  Male-male competition – explanation of homicide  Parental investment and mating effort – explanation of gender differences in crime Life History Theory, Risk-Taking, and Antisocial Behaviour  Cost-benefit tradeoffs of various activities in our ancestors’ lives  Natural selection favours allocation strategies that optimize reproduction fitness  3 tradeoffs: present vs future reproduction efforts; quantity vs quality of offspring; mating efforts vs parental involvement  Optimal tradeoff strategy depends on
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