Chapter 6 Notes: Biology, Psychology and Criminology
Trait Theory: An approach that looks at the combination of biological or psychological attributes that
might explain criminality. has two major divisions: biological aspect and psychological aspects
Biological Trait Theory
- Sociobiology: views human behaviour as being motivated by inborn biological urges and
The urge to survive and reproduce motivates human behaviour
Principles of biological trait theory:
- Not all humans are born with equal potential to learn and achieve bc we all have different
genetic make ups. Known as equipotentiality
- The importance of brain functioning, mental processes, and learning.
- Learning is influenced by instinctual drives developed over history
- Instincts are inherited and non-learned dispositions that activate behaviour patterns
- Some believe that biochemical conditions control and influence antisocial behaviour. (acquired
through diet and environment)
1. Nutritional Deficiencies
- Minimum vitamins and minerals are needed for proper brain functioning, a lack may result in
physical, mental and behavioural problems.
2. Sugar and Crime
- Diets high in sugar and carbohydrates are linked to violence and aggression
- This is a controversial view bc there’s no research to support either side very well
- A biochemical condition, in this case a deficiency of sugar, which influences antisocial
behaviour and criminality
- Has been linked to outbursts of antisocial behaviour and violence
4. Hormonal Influences
- Abnormal levels of androgens produce aggressive behaviour
- High levels of testosterone can alter behaviour
5. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- During PMS women are beset by irritability and poor judgement as a result of hormonal
changes, which places them at a greater risk for criminality.
6. Allergies - Some allergies cause swelling in the brain and sensitivity in the central nervous system, which
are linked so mental, emotional and behaviour problems.
7. Environmental Contaminants
- Dangerous quantities of some chemicals/gases are linked to emotional and behaviour
disorders, severe illness, or death.
Neurophysiologic Conditions and Crime
- The study of brain activity that looks at neurological and physical abnormalities acquired during
the fetal or perinatal stage, which are thought to control behaviour.
- Neurological functioning is measured in a variety of ways (visual awareness tests, verbal IQ
tests, memory tests, and electroencephalograph)
- Electroencephalograph: a device that can record the electronic impulses given off by the
brain, commonly called brain waves.
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Minimal Brain Dysfunction, ADHD, tumors, brain injury etc. are brain
problems that can have an effect on behaviour and ultimately crime
- Persistent criminality has been linked to dysfunction in the frontal and temporal regions of the
brain, which regulate and inhibit human behaviour.
- Abnormal levels of some neurotransmitters, including androgens, dopamine, norepinephrine,
serotonin, etc have been linked with aggression.
- Arousal Theory: the view that people with a high arousal level seek powerful stimuli to
maintain an optimal level of arousal; often associated with violence, aggression and sociopathy.
Genetics and Crime
- This relationship is controversial because it implies that the propensity to commit crime is
present at birth and cannot be altered.
Evolutionary Views of Crime
- As human beings have evolved certain traits have become ingrained and responsible for some
- Two general evolutionary theories of crime:
1. r/K Selection Theory: holds that all organisms can be located along a continuum,
whch is based on their repoductive drives in relation to their environment
• One end= R-Selection individuals: reproduce whenever they can and
invest little in their offspring
• The other end= K-selection individuals: reproduce slowly and take
care in raising their offspring
This theory is based on the idea that natural selection favours different sets of
2. Cheater Theory: suggests that a subpopulation of men has evolved with genes that
incline them toward extremely low parental involvment.
Psychological Trait Theories Psychodynamic Theory: the human personality is controlled by unconscious mental
processes developed early in childhood.
- The human mind performs three separate funct