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Many contemporary criminologists have doubtedbiologicalexplanations of crime.(Williams 2004) Discuss in terms of both contemporary empirical and pre 21st century approaches.

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Introduction

Word Count: 1, 706 "Many contemporary criminologists have doubted...biological...explanations of crime."(Williams 2004) Discuss in terms of both contemporary empirical and pre 21st century approaches. This essay will focus on the biological explanations of crime, investigating why contemporary criminologists are objectionable to the theory, and other explanations for criminal behaviour. The biological explanation for crime, originated from Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) who re-examined Darwin's theory of evolution, and applied it to criminals. Lombroso found that criminals were considered to be suffering from a depravity caused by an atavistic reversion (Jones, 2006). Evidence was shown in an autopsy on a famous criminal, finding his brain to show characteristics identified in lower primates. In addition, Lombroso provided a list of physical traits indicating the reversion, such as asymmetrical face, unusual ears, fleshy lips, receding chin or too many fingers and toes (Lombroso, 1876). At the time, his theory and conceptual framework were exceptionally controversial (Rafter, 1992) nevertheless, highly criticized methodologically for failing to use sufficient control groups and having extremely doubtful correlations (Tarde, 1886). Challenging Lombroso's findings, Charles Goring conducted a much more sophisticated study looking at 3000 English recidivist prisoners, and "non-criminals" over an eight year period. Goring chose prisoners convicted of different offences, and non-criminals based on thirty-seven physical characteristics. It was established that there were no significant differences; nevertheless it was found that the criminals averaged to be two inches shorter and weighed three to seven pounds heavier (Goring, 1913). ...read more.

Middle

The earlier biological explanations tend to address how criminals are "born criminals"(Lombroso, 1876) and according to Maudsley (1874) people "go criminal, like the insane go mad, because they cannot help it." However, contemporary biological explanations now focus on factors such as biochemical neurophysical, and characteristics related to violence and crime (Leon-Guerrero, 2005). A demonstration of this is a study by Kruk et al (2004) where it was discovered, by using rats, increasing corticosterone a stress hormone similar to cortisol) increased levels of stress, therefore applied to humans could explain why aggressive incidents can easily become escalated and uneasy to stop. An important explanation why contemporary theorists may doubt the biological explanation is due to the moderation of determinist views, however now show the approach as "holistic" biological explanations, taking into consideration interactions between everything, from gene, organ, psychological and social process (Niehoff, 1999). The contemporary biological explanation revolves around "biology is not destiny"(Niehoff, 1999). An example of this is, Fishbein, 2005 suggests that criminals are considered more for their behaviours and traits activated by environmental factors, and must examine brain function and environmental triggers in relation to the criminal behaviour. A significant criticism of the biological explanation that could distort the view for contemporary criminologists is the mistaken idea as biological determinism. ...read more.

Conclusion

Eysenck (1964) influences the psychological explanation of crime, stating that personality influences criminal behaviour. He believed that personality could be mapped into three segments, extroversion, psychoticism, and neuroticism. It is believed that an exaggeration of one of these traits could lead to a predisposition to anti-social behaviour (Treadwell, 2006). Sociological, as well as behavioural theories can also be considered to explain criminal behaviour. An example of this shows social learning as form of explaining criminal behaviour. Some theorists believe criminal behaviour originates from an individuals social learning experience, claiming that this behaviour has no associations with biology or personality (Jewkes, & Letherby, 2002). In conclusion, it can be seen from the explanations throughout this essay, that it is plausible for contemporary criminologists to doubt the biological explanation of crime. These range from, lack of other factors influencing biology, social construction, lack of free will, and abusing knowledge that could predict possible criminals. Although it cannot be completely be denied that the biological explanation has significance, it has to be taken into consideration that the time of the most influential discoveries, it was based on the scientific knowledge and research techniques of the time (Jones, 2007). In addition, the theories may be seen as far more significant if environmental settings were accepted (Jones, 2007). An important factor that appeals for the biological explanation is the removal of responsibility and guilt. It is believed that "biology" is to blame, not people, collectively or individually for criminal behaviour (Gross, 2005). ...read more.

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