WDW205 Lecture 6 10/29/2012
Social Learning and Social Control Theories of Crime
Social Learning Theories
- Origins lie in the ideas of Gabriel Tarde (1843-1904) and his theory of imitation
- Consistent with ideas and concepts developed within psychology.
- Idea that crime – and the values and motivations that promote crime – are the
product of normal human learning processes.
o You are the product of your learning
Differential Association Theory
- Edwin Sutherland and Donald Cressey.
- Crime is a politically defined construct.
- Criminal behavior is learned – just like conventional behavior – within social groups.
- Must learn both criminal motivations and criminal techniques.
o What justifies the crime
o How to engage in a criminal crime
- A person becomes deviant when they experience more favorable than unfavorable
definitions towards deviance
o Not everybody you know has the same impact on your life (some may be for
influential than others)
- Definitions vary according to frequency, duration, intensity and priority.
o Frequency: how often you interact with someone
o Duration: those people that you have known longer
o Intensity: how close you feel to somebody (closeness of the relationship)
o Priority: when they came into your life
Pro-Crime Values, by Gang Membership
- Gangs socialize people into thinking and acting in a particular way
- We need to justify when it is appropriate to use violence
Differential Reinforcement Theory
- Ron Akers: Deviant Behavior: A Social Learning Approach.
- Consistent with the principles of operant conditioning.
- Behavioral modeling (intimate social groups not needed)
o As long as you are positively reinforced
- Positive and negative reinforcement
o Behaviors are more likely to be repeated with positive reinforcement, vice
versa for negative reinforcements
- Sykes and Matza: Most people – including criminals – adhere to conventional values
o Tend to have the same beliefs of what is right and what is wrong
- Crime, therefore, must be rationalized in order to neutralize feelings of guilt. These
rationalizations must be learned.
o Criminals learn excuse for their behavior at their psychic level feel better, of
who they are and the thing they engage in
- Techniques of Neutralization:
1. Denial of responsibility; the devil made me do it, insanity
2. Denial of injury; this did not hurt anyone 3. Denial of the victim; the victim deserved it
4. Condemnation of the condemners; the police that arrested me are more
corrupted than I am
5. Appeal to higher loyalties; I didn’t do it for myself I did it for others that are in
- We are a product of the environment, and how people treat us is going to have an
influence on who we become
- People who are labeled deviant/criminal, will start to behavior according to the
- Kai Erickson and Edwin Lemert.
- Interactionist definitions of crime and criminality.
- Differential enforcement.
- Negative social labels cause permanent harm to those so labelled.
- Two harms of the criminal label:
2. Change to self-concept.
- Difference between primary and secondary deviance
o Everybody will engage in deviance in one point or time
o Primary deviance: does not develop a consistent criminal behavior
o Secondary deviance: more permanent and engraved deviant behavior
Social Learning Theories: Policy Implication
- Peers deviance and ones’ own deviance > strong single correlate
- Treatment or rehabilitation programs that focus on resocialization and learning
o Teach more pro-social behaviors > behavior will change for the better
- Diversion programs for criminal offenders.
o Take out before you are permanently labeled
- Keeps novice criminals separate from “hardened” criminals.
o Prevents hardened criminals from association to novice criminals, not
allowing them to pass down technics and motivations
o Did not want gang members to recruit new members (pass down techniques)
- The youth justice system.