Psychological research has lead to a better understanding of crime in society, the legal system and in the field of forensic science.
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Psychological research has lead to a better understanding of crime in society, the legal system and in the field of forensic science. Many changes have been made within society, to the legal system and in the field of forensic science because of evidence that psychological research has produced. The just world hypothesis is where individuals believe that the world is fair so they can maintain feelings of control over their own fate. An innocent victim suffering disconfirms this view, resulting in other individuals protecting their feelings of security by helping the victim or persuading themselves that no injustice has occurred, because the victim deserved their fate. Lerner in 1966 simulated a learning experiment where subject witnessed participants being given electric shocks. Some participants had the option of leaving the experiment, whereas other participants did not have this option. Lerner found that subjects formed a lower opinion of the victimised participants when there was no possibility of the victim opting out of the experiment. In 2000 Foley and Pigott found that, "When it is possible to compensate victims, we do not ascribe more blame to one victim than another, but the amount of compensation offered differs according to circumstances." (Angles on Applied Psychology, 2003, page 133) Positively, Learner's 1966 experiment explained why victims are derogated. Also the evidence gathered supports the just world hypothesis. Negatively, as with all laboratory studies it can be suggested that it lacks ecological validity. Lerner's just world hypothesis has produced an understanding of significant social implications. A concern is that it implies that the belief in a just world may undermine a commitment to justice. Negatively, there is also evidence that does not support the just world hypothesis. For example individuals do not always blame the victim of a crime. Research into the just world hypothesis has influenced changes in society and within the legal system. Positively, it recognised that a way to not blame victims is to compensate them.
Unfortunately, fines may not be paid for by the offender and fines become routine and are seen as an operating cost. Probation is where the offender remains in the community under certain conditions. In evaluating probation, it costs little to administer, and does not stigmatise the offender. Oldfield in 1996 found offenders assigned to a work programme re-offended only 41% of times. Community service is where the offender repays society by conducting manual labour. In evaluating community service, it costs little to administer, and generates improvement in society; however offenders may be stigmatised as workmates are aware they are on community service. Again this is another method that may become routine and seen as an operating cost. Psychological intervention can come in the form of behavioural and cognitive treatments, token economies, social skills training and anger management. Token economy works on the principal that criminal behaviour is learnt like any other behaviour, hence it can be unlearned. Acceptable behaviour can then be incorporated. Many studies show that token economies work, such as Milan in 1979 and Hobbs and Holt in 1976. However it can be suggested that token economies just prevent prisoners re-offending as quickly, as found by Cohen and Filipcjak in 1971. By training offenders in social skills it is believed that they are less likely to re-offend. Positively, there is a range of evidence that social skills training does lead to an improvement in social skills, however it does not mean that criminal activity will decrease. Also it is not clear if social skills remain after long periods. This method appears no more effective than other interventions. Anger management aims to improve offender's ability to deal with feelings. Ainsworth in 2000 concluded that anger management is an effective may of reducing aggressive behaviour in offender populations, however are only likely to be successful if well managed, well funded and equipped and the right individuals are assigned to them.
Profiling is a helpful tool, but will never be used to replace a criminal investigation, unless more progress is made, this is because profiles are to general and lack individualism. The main disadvantage to the police using a profiler is that they look for a specific type of person, but if the profile is wrong they have no other suspects. The profile of a criminal is only based upon the quality and accuracy of the evidence gathered. Also, innocent people get stereotyped because of profiling, if they fit the description of a criminal. One positive influence of the research that has been done on offender profiling is that with the use of IT experts, the FBI have produced computer profiling. This is a database system that uses offender profiling to search for offenders based upon description, age, MO etc. It is called the Homicide Investigation Tracking System, first invented in America. The description, age and MO etc of caught offenders is input into a database, then when a crime occurs the FBI can search for know offender that have the same description, age or MO. The database produces a list of offenders with the same description, age or MO. The selection of offenders can then be narrowed down to a location or previous convictions. The advantage to this system is that a list of suspects can be complied immediately. Information on all offenders across a wide geographical area is available immediately to all FBI and police departments. One disadvantage to this system is that it relies on data to be correct. Databases of know offenders only have information on criminals that have been caught. It could be suggested that that criminals that have not been caught may differ in characteristics than those that have been. Also convicted criminals may give false information to sensationalise their crimes. Psychological research has certainly influenced changes in society, in law and in forensic science, however these changes have been limited. It can be suggested that psychological research may improve over time to make more advanced changes to our society, in laws and in forensic science services.
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