ECO320Y5 Study Guide - Final Guide: Moral Development, Psychoticism, Xyy Syndrome
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1. Summarize why people are born Criminals + Critical
Biological Theory: criminals were not produced by society’s flaws, but that they were genetic misfits
who were born to break the rules. Some people are “born criminal” or inherit a predisposition to
crime which may become manifest when the individual is exposed to certain “triggering”
Dr. Goring found a high correlation between criminality and low intelligence, so he
concluded that crime was transmitted genetically through mental inferiority, could be
altered by social factors such as education.
Hooton, concluded that criminals represent an aggregate of sociologically and
biologically inferior individuals.
William Sheldon related particular body type to particular kinds of criminal behaviour.
He found that the muscular mesomorphs were the type that were most likely to
become involved in delinquent or criminal behaviour.
1) Criticism :
Lombroso’s comparison groups were chosen unsystematically and his statistical techniques
were crude. He assumed that those in prison were criminals and those out of prison were not.
Dr. Charles Goring concluded that there was no evidence of a distinct physical type of criminal
but had a number of flaws: he was comparing officially labelled criminals, who were not a
representative sample of all criminals, with diverse groups of other people who did not
represent the noncriminal population.
Hooton’s used conviction of crime as a method of separating criminals from noncriminals; he
then examined the convicted group and concluded that they were inferior; and he used this
finding of inferiority to account for their criminality; and his control group did not represent the
general population. As in the case of Lombroso, Hooton’s and Sheldon’s attempt to link
criminal behaviour to physical types was thoroughly discredited.
Studies in the US found that there were no significant differences in intelligence between
inmates and others. The composition of these tests have been found to be biased in favour of
the cultural groups of the designers of the tests.
Linking criminal behaviour to pathology ignores the political nature of social control – how
laws are created and how criminals are defined. The emergence of a positive science coincided
with the rise of a powerful capitalist class and expanded colonial activity.
There is no way to conduct experiments to discover if a biological factor will produce a criminal.
Crime is defined socially. Biological factors interact with nonbiological ones to determine
Genetic factors appear to be neither necessary nor sufficient to determine adult criminality.
Genes could alter the neurochemistry of the brain, rendering the individual irritable and
impulsive, but they do not cause criminal behaviour. Many different behaviours are defined as
criminal, and each has a distinct combination of determinants.
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The theory of the “born criminal” has been discredited because many people who present the
same anomalies as the “born criminal” live honest lives and many people who do not present
these anomalies behave like “born criminals.” Most offenders are not mentally defective.
XYY chromosome theory discredited, since the majority of carriers were found to be less rather
than more aggressive than fellow XY prisoners. There is no evidence that biological factors play
a causal role in violent crimes in general, and there is no support for the view that the mentally
ill were more criminal than the rest of the population.
Genetic explanations for crime are not supported. Genetic differences affect individuals that in
certain environmental contexts their differences may form the basis of lawbreaking activity.
Biological theory has a tendency to medicalize political issues, resulting in a denial of due
This theory is mobilized by the media and appeals to those who see a quick-fix solution to
problems of crime and violence.(nazi)
Psychological theories of crime
Psychological theories of crime explain abnormal behaviour as the result of mind and thought
processes that form during human development, particularly during the early years.
Psychoanalytical theorists (Freud – he did not make any attempts to relate his theory
specifically to criminal behaviour) argue that crime results when the ego and superego
cannot control the antisocial instincts or the id, which occurs because the individual has
not been adequately socialized in early childhood.
Moral development theorists (i.e. Piaget, Kohlberg) argue that each individual must go
through a sequence of moral development, so those with a high level of moral
development will be more likely to make responsible choices when faced with the
opportunity to get involved in criminal behaviour.
Personality theorists (i.e. Eysenck) argue that law-abiding people must develop a
conditioned fear of deviance, so those who become delinquents and criminals do not
develop this fear because of poor conditioning by parents or because they are less
susceptible to conditioning.3 dimensions of personality: extraverts, neurotics, and
psychotics. Extraverts, (high need for excitement), their impulsivity, and relatively weak
conscience, are believed to be more prone to criminal behaviour. Neuroticism
(characterized by anxiety and restlessness). Psychoticism (cold, impersonal, hostile,
lacking sympathy, unfriendly, untrustful, unemotional, antisocial, inhumane, with
paranoid ideas that people are against them) would tend to be more serious offenders.
Eysenck’s theory shows how psychological variables and social variables can be
interrelated because individuals who have a psychological propensity to commit crime
may be effectively socialized if they grow up in an environment that provides effective
conditioning, and individuals with a low propensity for criminality may become criminal
if their environment is too permissive.
Social learning theorists (i.e. Bandura) argue that deviant behaviour such as aggression
can be learned through direct experience or through modelling the behaviour of others.
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