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

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Psychology Assignment 1 Task: "Utilising Learning theories, critically evaluate any 2 biological explanations for criminal behaviour". Are criminals born or are criminals made? This is a question that many psychologists have researched into to try and come to a conclusive answer. However, they are divided into two; one side believing in the nurture approach (made criminals) and the other believing in the nature approach (born criminals). The biological psychologists have looked into various biological reasons for why people commit crimes. When imaging the type of criminals that were used for research, it is important to note that psychologists mainly focused on criminals who had committed crimes involving, aggression, violence and sex. Lombroso's work of 1876 and the twin studies of Bartol (1999), have contributed research to support their theory that there are biological reasons for why people commit crimes e.g genetics. In contrast psychologists who believe in the 'nuture' theory have contributed equally as much research, in the form of Pavlov's works of 1927 and 1955, and Skinner's work of 1953. It is necessary to look at the individual studies to be able to determine which research may be considered most solid and viable to determine what really influences criminal behaviour. ...read more.


Bartol separated twins into two categories, MZ twins (indentical twins) and DZ twins (unidentical twins), and then separated each set of twins in each category to evaluate their criminal behaviour. MZ twins are genetically the same, so it can be assumed that any common criminal behaviour that they express after being reared in different environments must be due to common criminal genes. This would strongly support the biological explanation. Bartol found a concordance rate (degree similarity between the twins) of 55% for MZ twins and 17% for DZ twins. This is lower than the earlier 1930's studies which found 100% concordance rates between four pairs of identical twins; however, Bartol's sample was larger than the previous. The fact that the DZ twins were at 55% concordance rate shows a high possibility that there is a genetic cause for criminal behaviour. The 17% for DZ twins, although it is a low percentage, still shows a link and this is important as DZ twins are only as genetically similar as any other two siblings. There is evidence to criticise this explanation, as other studies which support this theory define criminal behaviour in a different way, for example Daalgard and Kringlen (1976 ) ...read more.


The same can also be said of Pavlov's work, where he used dogs to prove his theory of classical conditioning. The experiment showed that an unconditioned response or conditioned response (salivation) can be automatically triggered by the unconditioned stimulus or conditioned stimulus (the bell). This experiment suggests that any response is an involuntary one, a reflex. So, therefore, it can be ascertained that criminal behaviour is learnt by association and it can also be taught. Again, though, it ignores the cognitive process which all individuals undertake, even those who commit crime; the dogs behaviour is not necessarily comparable to humans. No matter what criticisms are made of both the operant and classical conditioning, they are both in agreement that behaviour is learnt, so therefore every individual has the potential to become criminal, which is a stark comparison to the biological theories that suggest individuals don't choose to be criminals. Although the social learning theories, along with the biological explanations, give great information about the reasons why people may commit crimes, a conclusive answer is yet to be reached. It could be said then, that criminals could be born, made or even both. ...read more.

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