Psychology of Criminal Behavior
Chapter 1- Crime in Canada
The Influence of the Media
•James Wallace's 2008 story “Even inmates eat better than seniors in nursing homes”
◦increased the meal per diem to $5.46 in senior long-term facilities
▪prisoners receive meals worth more than $10 per day
•Crime and justice issues receive considerable media scrutiny, sensational crimes receive front-
page billing and the public is inundated with facts, figures, and opinions about what to do about
crime and how to increase public safety
•44% of Canadians believe more money should be spent on the criminal justice system
•FIGURE 1.1- Information Sources Rated as Highly Important
•Psychology is interested in intra-individual differences and inter-individual differences
◦Intra-Individual Differences: variations in criminal conduct within an individual across
time and situations
◦Inter-Individual Differences: variations in criminal conduct between individuals
•psychology focuses on individuals; sociology focuses more on groups
◦Forensic Psychology: refers to any application of psychology to the legal system
•In U.K psychological study of criminal behavior is referred to as criminological psychology
•In U.S and Canada, the area would be described as correctional psychology
◦Criminal Behavior: Intentional behavior that, when detected, is sanctioned by the courts as
a breach of society's established rules
•younger males are more likely to be involved in criminal behavior, and crime decreases with
◦Crime Desistance: The cessation of criminal behavior, most often described as process of
change rather than an instantaneous event.
•Psychology attempts to refine our understanding of criminal behavior by considering individual
variation in order to account from heterogeneity and provide differentiated assessment and
•A psychological understanding is derived from recognizing the variability of criminal behavior
between individuals as well as within an individual over time and across situations
•A prominent psychological depiction of the interplay among factors influencing criminality,
sometimes referred to as a general personality and social psychology of criminal conduct, is the
Personal, Interpersonal and Community-Reinforcement model.
▪This model posits that criminal behavior reflects the “immediate situation”
◦Cognitive Social Learning Theory of Crime: A learning theory of crime that attends to
both social and cognitive factors as well as behavior.
DEFINITION OF CRIME
•individual's motivation, opportunity, politics, social convention and context have been used to
•types of definitions typically include legal, moral, social and psychological explanations:
◦legal refers to acts prohibited by the state that are punishable under the law
◦moral refers to the violation of norms of religion and morality that are punishable by
◦social refers to the violation of certain norms and customs that are punishable by the
◦psychological refers to act that are rewarding to the perpetrator but harmful to others
◦Criminal Behavior: refers to intentional behavior that violates a criminal code; intentional
in that it did not occur accidentally or without justification of excuse.
DETERMINANTS OF CRIME
•determinants of crime have often been described as distal (I.e historical) and proximal (I.e
•from psychology's perspective, it is of interest to identify those factors that are most strongly
associated with criminality in order that the assessments are developed to reflect these domains
and that interventions are derived to address them and reduce future re-offending
•meta-analytic reviews are less biased in that they provide a quantitative estimate of the
importance of the results rather than a narrative interpretation by the author.
BOX 1.1- Statistical Information For Understanding Research
Effect Sizes and Meta-Analysis
•meta-analysis is one way to synthesize information which uses statistics to aggregate the results
of individual studies and develop one averaged effect size for all the studies combined
•meta-analysis give some studies more weight than others
•effect sizes provide information about the magnitude of the difference
•studies involving two dichotomous variables typically use effect sizes such as a phi correlation
or an odd ratio
•for studies looking at a continuous variable and a dichotomous variable, effect sizes are
typically reported as the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (Area Under the
Curve [AUC] for Receiver Operating Characteristic [ROC]), a Cohen's d correlation, or the B1
coefficient from logistic regression.
•Meta-analysis is useful because the aggregated effect size provides a quantitative summary of a
large body of research
•In meta-analysis, formulae can be used to convert information from one effect size measure into
•the conclusions of the meta-analysis are only as strong as the quality of the individual studies
that were aggregated
Measuring Predictive Accuracy
•Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) analysis is a technique for measuring the accuracy of
risk assessments by examining false positive and true positives across decision thresholds.
First and Second Order Correlates of Criminal Conduct
◦Central Eight: the eight most strongly identified risk factors, as identified through meta-
◦Big Four: The four most strongly correlated risk factors, as identified through meta-
◦Minor Risk Factors: Risk factors with very weak association with criminal behavior
◦Moderate Risk Factors: Risk factors with moderate association with criminal ; less strong
than the Big Four
◦Static Risk Factors: Risk factors with a demonstrated correlation with criminal behavior.
◦Dynamic Risk Factors: Risk factors that can change, unlike static factors, with such
change related to reduced criminal behavior.
◦Criminogenic needs/factors: Changeable risk factors that, when reduced, result in reduced
criminal behavior. Sometimes referred to as dynamic risk factors.
In u. k psychological study of criminal behavior is referred to as criminological psychology. Personal, interpersonal and community-reinforcement model: this model posits that criminal behavior reflects the immediate situation , cognitive social learning theory of crime: a learning theory of crime that attends to both social and cognitive factors as well as behavior. Curve [auc] for receiver operating characteristic [roc]), a cohen"s d correlation, or the b1 coefficient from logistic regression: meta-analysis is useful because the aggregated effect size provides a quantitative summary of a large body of research. In meta-analysis, formulae can be used to convert information from one effect size measure into another the conclusions of the meta-analysis are only as strong as the quality of the individual studies that were aggregated. Measuring predictive accuracy: receiver operating characteristic (roc) analysis is a technique for measuring the accuracy of risk assessments by examining false positive and true positives across decision thresholds.