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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 - Theories of Crime.docx

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Carleton University
PSYC 3402

Chapter 2 Theories of Crime Biological and Evolutionary ExplanationsBob was recently released from prison after serving a fiveyear sentence He had a criminal background for many years and experienced child abuse One night at a bar a man tried to hit on the girl he was with an this caused Bob to punch the man in the face and within 24 hours he was back in prison for breaching the conditions of his release and for incurring a new criminal assault chargeIntroductionBiological and evolutionary explanations for antisocial behaviour crime and related phenomenaBiological explanations are varied ranging from genetics as exemplified by twin and adoption studies to brain neurochemistry and the importance of dietBasic evolutionary psychology principles are describedThe environmentour hunterandgatherer ancestral environment that isprofoundly shaped the evolution of the human species and continues to influence our biology and our biology is constantly influenced by our everchanging surroundingsWhat Makes a Strong TheoryIn sum a theory is simply an explanation of a particular phenomenon in our case antisocial behaviour A strong theory is1Parsimonious2Clearly identifies the causal mechanisms and corresponding mediators and moderators underlying the phenomenon of interest3Testable and hence falsifiable via hypotheses and predictions4Based on empirical data and is modified in response to new data5Possesses interdisciplinary compatibility6Respects gender ethnicity and cultureBackgroundHistorical Context17581828 Franz Gall was the founding father of phrenologya theoretical perspective positing that there is a relationship between the shape and size of a persons head and hisher personality mental ability and behaviours18351909 Cesare Lombroso took Galls work one step further and began comparing criminalsboth men and women as well as prostitutesto normal segments of the population and that criminals posses distinctive physical features atavisms 1859 Charles Darwin posited that humans had evolved from ancestral species via the mechanisms of natural selectionHis cousin Francis Galton founded eugenicsforced abortions sterilization and ultimately death campsResearching Biological Explanations of CrimeBehavioural genetics researchers might employ twin methodology to ask whether identical twins are more likely to commit crime than nonidentical twinsMolecular biologists might compare the genetic makeup of a group of criminals to one of noncriminals to look for distinct genetic differences between the twoNeurochemical approaches might examine how genes actually express themselves in terms of the brains neurotransmitter systemsResearchers often define crime using current legal definitions and examine whether biological factors correlate or predict official criminal offending in the form of arrests or convictionsGenetics and CrimeTwins Adoption and Molecular GeneticsTwin Studies allow researchers to disentangle genetic and environmental influences The field of behavioural genetics relies heavily on the study of twins and adoptions and can help segregate genetic from environmental influences at least to some degreeFocuses on the 1 of the variance in humans that is free to vary because in identical twins MZ twins that 1 is the same in both twinsEvidence for a genetic contribution to crime is inferred if concordance rates are higher among MZ twins than DZ nonidentical twins Concordance rates are typically converted into a heritability coefficienta descriptive statistic that represents the proportion of phenotypic variance in a given behaviour in a sample andor population that can be attributed to genetic variation among individualsSome of these methodsparticularly statistical modellingpermit the estimation of two types of environmental factors 1Shared environmental factors shared by all family members2Nonshared environmental factors eg different peer groupsCriticisms May overestimate or underestimate the genetic contributionHeritability estimates for MZ twins may be confounded by prenatal factors that by definition arent necessarily geneticSmall sample sizesAdoption Studies has taken one of two forms1Parentoffspring studiesCorrelations between adoptive parents and adoptees antisocial behaviour are compared to correlations between biological parents and adopteesoIf the correlations are higher for the biological parents and the adopted offspring than the adoptive parents and the adopted offspring genetic contributions to antisocial behaviour are inferred
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