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Week 10 Textbook - Social Process & Social Learning

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Simon Fraser University
Jay H

WEEK 10 – SOCIAL PROCESS/LEARNING THEORIES OF CRIME Introduction  Sutherland’s development of differential association theory  Aker’s work of differential reinforcement  other social learning theories  Evolution of control theories of crime, emphasising on social bond and Hirschi’s control theories  Most assumes criminal behavior is learned behavior o Others believe offending is the result of natural tendencies controlled by social processes  Social process theories assume the individuals learn why and how to commit crimes through a process of socialization  Learned from significant others (ie. family, friends, coworkers)  Examine how individuals interact with other individuals/groups and how the learning that takes place in these interactions leads to a propensity towards criminal activity  Learning theories – explain how and why we learn from significant others to engage in criminal rather than conventional behavior  Control theories – emphasize personal or socialization factors that prevent individuals from engaging in selfish, antisocial behavior Learning Theories  How individuals learn criminal behavior from people they typically associate with  Assume tabula rasa (blank slate) o People have no tendency towards or away from committing crime  Criminal behavior learned through cultural norms  Influence of peers and significant others on an individual’s behavior  3 theories: differential association, differential identification, differential reinforcement Differential Association Theory  Introduced in late 1930s by Edwin Sutherland  Explained how criminal values could be culturally transmitted to individuals from significant others  Theoretical model with 9 principles o Most interesting - #1 Criminal behavior is learned  Completely opposite of Lombroso’s theory  Criminal behaviour is result of normal social processes 1 o Most important - #6 A person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favorable to violate of law over definitions unfavorable to violation of law  The essence of differential association  If there is more pro-crime values than anti-crime, individual will engage in such criminal activity  DA came out in the same time period as Sheldon’s body type, IQ testing o Common assumption that there was essentially something wrong with individuals who commit crime  Crime is learned the same way as learning everyday behaviours o Learn the techniques from associates, and motivations  DA can be seen as a highly positive, deterministic theory except that instead of biological or psychological traits creating crime, it is social interaction and learning o Absence of free will and rational thinking  Used classical conditioning as a basis for DA o Learn through associations between stimuli and responses  Drawbacks to Sutherland’s DA theory: o Believed there was a ratio of favorable and unfavorable violations of law but it is impossible to measure such ratio o Claim that criminals learn before committing crime but not necessarily true because criminal association can cause crime and committing crimes causes more criminal associations o Inability to confirm blank slate theory because if everyone started as a blank slate, who committed crime in the first place o Difficult to measure by social scientists  Despite criticisms, much research supports Sutherland’s theory Glaser’s Concept of Differential Identification  Similar to DA but with the influence of movies and television and other reference groups outside of one’s significant others  Allow for learning to take place not only though people close to us but also through other reference groups o Ex) television, movie stars, sport stars, etc  Individual must identify with the person and character but need not have a relationship with the group and the group could be imaginary  Theory virtually ignored but can now be seen as an add-on to Sutherland’s DA theory Differential Reinforcement Theory 2  C.R. Jeffrey in 1965  Critiqued and re-evaluated Sutherland’s DA o Claimed was incomplete without some attention to an updated social psychology of learning  In some ways, no different than rational choice theory as both focus on reinforcement and punishment that occurs after an individual offends  Except that RC assumes human are born with capacity for rational decision making while DR assumes blank slate and people must be socialized and taught to behave Operant Conditioning  B.F. Skinner  Concerned with how behavior is influenced by reinforcements and punishments o Positive reinforcement – behavior is strengthened/encouraged through rewards o Negative reinforcement – behavior is strengthened due to avoidance of punishment o Positive punishment – behavior is weakened though adverse stimuli o Negative punishment – behavior is weakened though lack of rewards  These principles are apparent in humans at a young age  Humans learn attitudes and behavior though a mix of reinforcements and punishments o Rehab programs with opportunities of rewards and threats of punishment most effective on a 4:1 scale (4 rewards, 1 punishment)  Whether deviant or conforming behavior occurs and continues depends on the past and present rewards or punishment for the behavior and the alternative behavior Bandura’s Model of Modeling/Imitation  Demonstrated that a large amount of learning takes place without any form of conditioning  Claimed individuals can learn even without rewards and punishments or exposed to associations between stimuli and responses  Humans are biologically hard-wired to observe and learn the behavior of others, especially elders, to see what behavior is essential for survival and success  Experimented with children and Bo-Bo dolls  Everyday phenomenon demonstrated by his findings: fashion trends  Criticism: o Appears tautological, variables and measures used to test its validity are true by definition o If individuals who report that they associate with those who offend, are rewarded for offending, believe offending is good, more likely to offend 3 o Same criticisms as Sutherland’s theory of chronological ordering  DA takes place after rather than before crime  DR has the most empirical validity of any contemporary model of criminal offending o Most valid theories of human behavior in regards to crime Neutralization Theory  Associated with Gresham Sykes and David Matza’s techniques of neutralization and Matza’s drift theory  Thought social learning influences delinquent behavior but also most criminals hold conventional beliefs and values  While remaining partially committed to conventional social order, youth can drift into criminal activity  Neutralization theory – people justify and rationalize behavior through neutralizing it or making It appear not so serious  Techniques of Neutralization: o Denial of responsibility – influenced by outside forces, not accountable for their actions o Denial of injury – no one was actually hurt o Denial of victim – see the victim as the wrong-doer and themselves as avengers o Condemnation of the condemners – claim condemner are hypocrites o Appeal to higher loyalties – overlook norms in favor of the rules of a belief  Endless number of excuses people make for wrong behavior  Studies that have attempted to empirically test neutralization theory at inconsistent o Two criticisms:  Techniques are difficult to measure  Criminals may not use techniques prior to offense but after it Summary of Learning Theories  Emphasize social process of how and why individuals learn criminal behavior  Socialization process with significant others  Empirical research has shown that leaning theories are key to understanding criminal behavior Control Theories  Assume all people would naturally commit crimes if it wasn’t for restraints on their innate selfish tendencies  Assume all humans exhibit antisocial tendencies  Concerned with why individuals don’t commit crime 4  At the same time selfish and aggressive behaviors decline, self-consciousness and social emotions is formed  Without appropriate socialization, people act on their “pre-programmed” tendency towards crime Early Control Theories of Human Behavior  Thomas Hobbs o All individuals are inherently disposed to take advantage of others to improve their own personal well-being o Constant fear created by selfishness results in humans rationally coming together to create binding contracts that keep individuals from violating others’ rights o Punishment is necessary to maintain an established social contract among people  Durkheim’s Idea of Awakened Reflection and Collective Conscience o Suggested humans have no internal mechanism to let them know when they are fulfilled o Automatic spontaneity – know to stop when full and start again when less than full o Awakened reflection – no internal, regulatory mechanism because there is more supply than demand  greed o Collective conscience – extent of similarities people share, early idea of social bonding  Establishes rules that control individuals from following their natural tendencies towards selfish behavior  Conforming individuals against a common enemy  Freud’s Concept of Id, Superego, and Ego o Id – individuals are born with a tendency towards inherent drives and selfishness  Born with equal amounts of Id drives and motivations towards greed/selfishness o Superego – subconscious domain of the psyche that contains our conscience  Formed through interactions between a young child and significant others o Ego – the only conscious domain of the psyche that mediates the battles between the Id and superego  Represents our personality Early Control Theories of Crime 5  Throughout 1950s and 1960s, research was dominated by the learning theories  Reiss’s Control Theory o Albert Reiss in 1951 o Claimed delinquency was a consequence of weak ego or superego controls o No explicit motivation for delinquent activity o Believed family was the primary source where deviant predispositions were discouraged o Individuals must be closely monitored for delinquent behavior and subsequently disciplined when they break the rules o Personal factors such as impulse restrains and delay gratification also important  Toby’s Concept of “Stake in Conformity” o Jackson Toby in 1957 o Individuals were more inclined to act on their natural inclinations when the controls on them were weak o Stake in conformity – the extent to individuals have investments in the conventional society  How much are you going to risk violating the law o Most influential factors in individual’s decisions to offend  People with nothing to lose more likely to offend o Emphasis on peer influences in both motivating and inhibiting antisocial behavior depending on whether most peers have high or low stakes  Nye’s Control Theory (p. 456 Figure 7.3) o F. Ivan Nye in 1958 o Strong emphasis on family o No significant positive force that caused delinquency because antisocial tendencies are universal and found in everyone o 3 primary components of control:  Internal control – formed through social interaction, development on conscience  Direct control – range of constraints on individual propensities to commit acts  Indirect control – when individuals are strongly attached to their early caregivers, if needs not met, inappropriate behavior can result o Predicted U-shaped curve, as too much or no controls predict most chronic delinquency o Healthy balance of freedom and parental control was the best strategy  Reckless’s Containment Theory (p.458 Figure 7.4) 6 o Walter Reckless o Emphasizes both inner and outer containment (internal and external controls) o Identified factors that push or pull individuals towards antisocial behavior o Can be pushed into delinquency by social environment (ie. lack of education, jobs) or individual factors (ie. brain disorder, risk-taking personalities) o Can be pulled into it by hanging out with delinquent peers, television violence, etc o Push and pulls can force individuals into criminal activity unless sufficiently contained/controlled o Internal containment – person’s sense of self, internalize societal norms o External containment – social organizations (ie. schools, churches, institutions) o Visual image of containment theory as circles within circles  Outer (circle 1) – the social realm of pressures and pulls  Circle 2 – external containment  Circle 3 – internal containment  Innermost (4) – person’s individual level pushes to commit crime o External factors may be more important than internal ones o Weaker support for theory among minorities and females o Does not go far enough towards specifying factors that are important in predicting criminality regarding specific groups of individuals Modern Social Control Theories  Build on earlier versions of social control by adding a level of depth and sophistication  Matza’s Drift Theory (p. 460 Figure 7.5) o David Matza in 1964 o Individuals offend at certain times in their life when social controls are weakened o Criticized earlier theories and their tendency to predict too much crime  Chicago school – incorrectly predict all individuals in bad neighbourhood commit crime  Strain theory – poor people commit crime o Soft determinism – grey area between free will and determinism  Claimed there is some degree of determinism in human behavior and a significant amount of free will o Social controls are week during teenage years  Parents stop having a constant supervisory role  Teenagers don’t have to many responsibilities o Majority of individuals are free to do whatever they want 7 o During times when people have few ties and obligations, they will drift in and out of delinquency o Drifting is not the same as a commitment to a life of crime o Individuals do not reject conventional normative structure o Subterranean values – socialized to use as a means of circumventing conventional values  Allows neutralization and rationalization of criminal activity o Criticism: does not explain the most chronic offenders o Highly consistent with several ideas presented by control theories  Selfish tendencies are universal  Inhibited by socialization and societal controls  Appear at times when control are weakest  Hirschi’s Social Bonding Theory o Travis Hirschi in 1969 o Most influential social control theory o Takes an assumption from Durkheim that we are all animals and thus naturally capable of committing criminal acts o However, we can be adequately socialized to become tightly bonded to conventional entities o The stronger the social bond, the less prone to engaging in crime o Made up of 4 elements:  Attachment  Most important factor  Affectionate bonds between an individual and their significant others  Without healthy attachments, probability of acting inappropriately increases  Commitment  Investment a person has in conventional society  One’s “stake in conformity”  If they have much to lose, less likely to commit crime  Very hard to instill commitment within conventional society for offenders  Involvement  Time spent on conventional activities  More time spent in constructive activities will reduce time devoted to illegal behaviors  Moral belief
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