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Review theories of criminal behaviour.

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Introduction

Psychology and crime Example essay A ) Review theories of criminal behaviour There are three main theories of what causes criminal behaviour, biological theory, learning theory and a psychodynamic theory. The biological theory believes that criminal behaviour is determined by your genetic make-up. To investigate this many studies have been carried out on identical twins because if this theory is correct identical twins have the same genetic make-up, and therefore if one behaves criminally then the other should also do this. This it is referred to as concordance rates. Yoshimasu compared to the concordance rate between identical twins and non-identical twins. He found there was a much higher concordance rate for the identical twins and there was for the non-identical twins this suggests that your genetic make-up does have some influence on whether you act criminally or not. The biological theory also believes that brain activity can affect the likelihood of someone acting in a criminal way. Raine et el carried out a study in which the brain activity of a group of murderers who were all pleading not guilty for reasons of insanity was compared to a control group. He compared the brain activity using a PET scan of the subjects who were performing a continuous performance task. He found that there were differences between the activity of the brains of the murderers when compared with the control groups PET scans. ...read more.

Middle

b) Evaluate theories of criminal behaviour All the psychological research on which theories are based is limited in a number of ways. One important issue is that of ethical guidelines which are a set of rules psychologists need to follow when carrying out research to ensure participants are protected. The study by Bandura et al breaks ethical guidelines as it encouraged young children to behave aggressively. In contrast to this the study by Hoffman is more ethical as it was carried out using observations having obtained informed consent of those observed. Another evaluation issue is generalisability, which means the extent to which research findings can be generalised to people other than the participants of the actual study. For example the study carried out by Raine used participants who were all pleading NGRI to murder, but there were other important factors about this sample that made them rather unique - many of them suffered from personality disorders or had experienced brain damage, some were epileptic and others had been drug or alcohol abusers. It is therefore difficult to generalise to other criminals from their results. In comparison psychodynamic theories such as those of Freud and Staub & Healey are devised using evidence from case studies and are therefore based on a very small number of people who are also not representative of any one population. Similarly studies psychologists carry out should try to reflect how people behave in the real world, this is called ecological validity. ...read more.

Conclusion

Research suggests that one reason may be that her criminal behaviour is innate, or that she was born with it. Evidence such as twin studies by Yohimasu and other biological evidence such as studies of brain activity by Raine seem to suggest that criminal behaviour may be partly determined by biological factors. However there is other research which suggests that environmental factors may play a part in criminal behaviour. For example research by Bandura suggested that aggressive behaviour is learned by imitation and this could suggest the girl is imitating the behaviour of a role model in stealing the car. Learning theory also suggests that the way in which we are punished and rewarded can affect behaviour and research by Hoffman suggested that when parents are particularly critical and give very little praise there is higher incidence of delinquent behaviour. So in this case the girl may have had particularly power assertive parents and stealing the car may be her reaction to this. Finally psychodynamic theories suggest childhood conflicts can influence adult behaviour, the girl may have unresolved repressed conflicts which are causing her delinquent behaviour, or it may be that she is responding to an over demanding id seeking instant gratification in stealing the car, and her desires are not being controlled by her superego. This relates to theories by Freud and Staub & Healey. It is probable that it is a combination of these kinds of factors which are influencing the girl's behaviour. ...read more.

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