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Defining Crime In Psychology

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Defining Crime In Psychology Every human society throughout time has understood that there are actions and beliefs that are morally wrong, but different cultures have different opinions on what is criminal. For example, the newspaper article I have chosen to study for this paper is about the dismembered torso of a young African boy, which was found in the river Thames on September 21st 2001. It is believed that the boy was the victim of an African muti murder performed to bring luck to the Guana (muti ritualist). In the UK murder is illegal, even on the grounds of euthanasia, whereas among African ritualists it is believed to be beneficial. Several psychologists have come up with theories that attempt to explain the reasons for crime, such as Kohlberg, Raine, Bandura, and Rushton, some of which are more believable than others. Kohlberg believes that we take the majority of our morals and beliefs from valued role models, in a similar way to Bandura in his social learning theory study. ...read more.


This theory can also be used to explain the actions of young offenders, as children in a subculture will often look up to a peer, and if that person is rebellious and criminal their actions will influence those around them to be criminal as well. However, Kohlberg has received a large amount of criticism for his work, as other psychologists and sociologists believe that his ideas are too Westernised, and therefore do not apply to the world's population as a whole. Running almost parallel to Kohlberg's work is Bandura's belief in the theory of social learning. Using modelling he showed that children could very easily be influenced by the adults in their environment. Bandura's models carried out violent actions in a nursery school. For example a model would attack a Bobo clown doll with a hammer and shout abuse at it in front of a group of 3 to 5 year old children. The children would later be observed carrying out similar attacks on the doll. ...read more.


There are two theories for this: firstly that black people are more criminally disposed than white people, because of their culture or genetic makeup, and secondly that the UK's justice system is institutionally racist. More important than defining crime however, is discovering the causes of crime. It is believed by many psychologists that crime is situational, for example people from poorer areas are seemingly more likely to commit crimes. However, because of negative stereotyping like this police activity in poorer areas is higher, leading to more arrests, whereas middle class white collar criminals who live in affluent areas are less likely to be arrested. This would suggest that crime is innate, and that criminally minded people are merely taking advantage of whatever background and resources are available to them. Crime is as old as society, and "criminal" actions must have been carried out before laws were developed, or else there would be no need for rules. This also leads to the suggestion that crime is innate. However, definitions of crime differ from culture to culture and country to country, so to claim that crime is innate is difficult, as there is no clear definition. ...read more.

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