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PSYC39 - Psych and the Law - Lec 3 (near-verbatim)

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David Nussbaum

PSYC39 Lecture 3: PY Date: Best contemporary textbook in forensic psychology for Canadian students o Past textbook had things on eye-witness testimony and Miranda rights which dont really apply to forensic psychologists at all, esp not if in Canada; b/c in Canada, we dont have Miranda rights o This text focuses on criminal aspects of within forensic psychology as opposed to the social science and perceptual stuff (eye-witness testimony) Researching biological explanations of crimes and it sort of sees them as pseudo-explanations o Theyre not pseudo-explanations at all, but in historical context they were seen by many forensic psychologists as being erroneous but thats because of their origins Text doesnt go into molecular biology, genetics or neurochemical approaches and part of the reason is b/c relatively few forensic psychologists have a good handle on this o Some forensic psychologists are interested in brain behaviour relationships in criminal context but mainstream are hostile to brain behaviour relationships 150-200 yrs ago = biology in its infancy and there really wasnt a good understanding of how the brain worked o Synapse wasnt discovered until 100 yrs ago o So ppl who thought that there might be biological basis for criminal beh were working on a pre-scientific model b/c they didnt know about synapse, neurotransmitters, action potentials things very primitive Phrenologists made pronouncements So when ppl started looking at things at a more sophisticated way, from biological perspective, they started looking at twin studies and adoption studies basically, 2 extreme positions that you can take o Can say the criminal beh develops due to enviro; the other extreme is that some ppl are just born bad and it doesnt matter where theyre raised b/c genes o Problem w/ extremes: youre only focusing on one small part of what tends to be complex, interactive sub- problems that combine to make a more complex overall problem o Cant come up with optimal solution w/ extreme views b/c restricting scope of what the real problem space is Ppl started looking at links between genetics and anti-social beh o Ppl like slidnoff, mednic and their colleagues could be that genes play a role, could be that the enviro plays a role so lets think about research designs where both factors at play and lets see how we can tease this out it may be that they both play a role and they interact o Genetics may be responsible for some percentage of criminal beh, enviro may be responsible for some percentage of criminal beh and if we look at how the 2 of them go together, well have a better idea of whats really causing criminal behavior And then, if we want to intervene to reduce criminal beh, well know what to do with which ppl Could have ppl who are genetically loaded for environmental influence in the wrong way and other ppl may have higher thresholds so may not be flipped to criminal behaviour unless really bad early enviro; many possibilities o Classical paradigm = twins # of diff ways to exploit twinship to study genetic influences on behaviour 1) compare identical twins with non-identical twins; identical twins = identical genes; non-identical twins share 50% of their genes like regular siblings BUT advantage of studying twins (as controls) instead of siblings is that their environment will typically be the same (same class in school for ex) = more shared enviro for non-identical twins than for regular siblings Compare identical and non-identical twins and see concordance rates for anti-social beh 2) compare non-identical twins with siblings where the twins will have more similar enviro even though both types of siblings share 50% of genes 1 PSYC39 Lecture 3: PY Date: By utilizing the differences in genetic similarity and the extent of the shared enviro have relatively powerful tools to examine the effects of genes and early enviro in terms of criminal outcomes There have been studies that look at the effect of early enviro o Early enviro are seen to be more critical especially by criminologists (=sociologists who look at popn studies involving crimes) o Criminologists arent psychologists in that they dont look at individuals but rather, they look at large groups of ppl and they compare Large samples and they primarily look at (sociological) demographics such as gender, age differences (young vs. old), diff socioeconomic status A lot of sociology grew out of Marxist theory and Marx believed that social class determines of many outcomes and thats why he didnt like capitalism (b/c some classes were favoured over others and things were intrinsically unfair) One of the problems with Marxist thought (aside from the fact that theres no real, coherent psychological theory underlying it) in economies that tried Marxism, it didnt seem to work so if you dont give ppl incentives to do things, they typically dont (ppl dont behave altruistically) The extreme Marxist position led to a lot of the early sociology and some sociologists decided to study criminal beh between these diff groups of diff socioeconomic levels Found: ppl occupying lower socioeconomic classes seem to produce more crime so they said that its valid that due to the strain in the lower class, they become criminals Of course, not everybody in the lower class becomes criminals many of them rose above their origins and made success Again, to just look at one side of this complex system is deemed overly simplistic On the same token, you see a lot of ppl due to genetic reasons, who you would think would excel at life, actually mess up So its not just a matter of genes, or just the environment; theres interaction How might this interaction play out? o Cassidy did a # of studies looking at more specific biological markers o Found that its NOT simply a biological marker (for ex: MAO; looked at 2 types; the A type which is one of the responders to stress and childhood maltreatment) o Found that its not just how reactive ppl are to stress and its not simply how much stress they have, but how these 2 factors go together o At the end of his studies, the question was: is the level of MAO-A (an enzyme that metabolizes monoamines such as 5HT, DA, norepi) is there something mechanistic there for further study? o There have been links btn the hormone testosterone (male sex hormones) and aggression Responsible for development of male sexual characteristics physically Post-puberty = huge increase in testosterone in males = responsible for facial, deep voice, more strength With the same relationship occurs in women, but womens testosterone levels are much lower From personality perspective, one of the things testosterone does is it gives ppl a position in the social dominance hierarchy Some ppl w/in any social structure are more dominant and some are less dominant so, have social hierarchies that appear to be self-organized But really, theyre not exactly self-organizing Original research looked at dominance hierarchies in animals specifically, gorillas o Social Hierarchies in Gorillas: 2PSYC39 Lecture 3: PY Date: Alpha male = ruled the group of gorillas and as the dictator, he got food first, got most of the females; if someone challenged him, would beat them up b/c he was the better fighter Middle
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