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Utilising cognitive theories, critically evaluate any 2 cognitive explanations for criminal behaviour".

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Psychology Assignment 2 Over the years psychologists have become interested in the reasons why people commit crimes and how they process thoughts differently to others. Some psychologists have looked more into the cognitive, developmental, and personality factors that could contribute to criminal behaviour. When looking at humans and why they commit crimes, the cognitive reasoning is important to consider. This is because the average, 'normal', person processes thoughts before engaging in any actions, and this is something that some psychologists have discarded. Kohlberg and Dodge contributed separate research to support the cognitive theory, Bowlby looked into proving that maternal-deprivation can cause criminal behaviour, and others such as Freud and Eysenck looked at how the development of the personality can cause individual to engage in criminal behaviour. Kohlberg theory focuses on the area of morality in the thought processes of individuals. He believes that morality development occurs in stages throughout childhood. He proved his theory by assessing the moral reasoning of individuals through the use of moral dilemmas. These dilemmas generally involved the choice between two alternatives, both of which would be considered socially unacceptable. His most famous dilemma was the 'Heinz' dilemma, where a man who cannot afford the treatment to save his dying wife has the option to either steal the medication, or let his wife die. ...read more.


Kohlberg's study, although it provides some understanding of the processes of moral reasoning process that is undertaken, his theory is based on how individuals respond to hypothetical situations and so there is the issue of validity. Also he does mention the part that the conscience plays in the moral reasoning process. It can be argued from these points that although Kohlberg shows that there is some association between moral functioning and criminal behaviour, however there is no direct link. Eysenck focused his work on the personality factors that cause people to commit crime. He expressed that there are subtle differences in the central and autonomic nervous systems of individuals that cause their criminal behaviour or tendency to commit criminal behaviour; these physical differences account for whether or not an individual can conform to social rules or not. Those with less sensitive nervous systems are more likely to engage in crime due to the excitement 'buzz' it gives them as they cannot get it from other non-criminal activities. He places everybody along the two dimensions of extrovert-introvert and emotional stable. Criminals are most likely to be extroverts as they need more excitement and stimulation; they are generally impulsive and thrill-seeking and this is what leads them to engage in criminal behaviour. ...read more.


Bowlby believed that if a child is unable to develop a 'warm, intimate and continuous' relationship with its mother, then the child would have difficulties forming relationships with other people and would be ate risk of behavioural disorders. He demonstrated this through his '44 Thieves' experiment. he found that 44 out of the 88 clients that he assessed at the child guidance clinic were thieves. Of this 44 he identified some as 'affectionless psychopaths' because they appeared to have little sense of social responsibility and showed no guilt for crime. Those who had not committed crimes showed no display of anti-social behaviour even though they were emotionally maladjusted; they were not diagnosed as affectionless psychopaths. The 44 that were diagnosed as 'affectionless psychopaths', had experienced early and prolonged separation from their mothers, whereas the others had not experienced such separation. From these findings it can be ascertained that early separation may be related to later emotional maladjustment, which could lead to criminal behaviour. However it is not completely conclusive as Bowlby did not take into consideration other causes foe the maladjustment, ie the individuals that are living in poor conditions or unsettled interpersonal relationships. So although there may be a correlational link between separation and affectionless psychopathy, he does not prove that there is one causes the other. ...read more.

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