Introduction to Criminological Theory Classicism, Biological and Psychological Positivist theories Dr. Ruth McAlister Week 3
Lecture Aim: The aim of this lecture is to introduce students to the birth of criminology as a discipline and to outline early thinking on criminality
Learning Outcomes By the end of this lecture students will: Have a better understanding of the ‘birth’ of criminology Appreciate the pros and cons of early criminological theory more generally in attempting to understand why some people are criminal Be able to argue (or not) if people are ‘born’ criminal or whether there is such a thing as a ‘criminal mind’
Lecture Format • Introduction and discussion of classical theory • Introduction and discussion of biological positivism • Introduction and discussion of psychological positivism
What is theory? A way of thinking about the world When you engage with theory you try to make sense of what the author has argued It has a deliberate purpose forcing us to look at the world in new ways It is often deliberately contentious giving you something to argue against or for Theory attempts to ensure there is an ongoing conversation about key ideas, as well as changes within society
Introduction Birth of criminology associated with the classical school of 18th C Classical criminology = people choose a criminal life Positivism = ‘features’ of individual may/may not make them criminal Biological – are people are ‘born’ criminal? Psychological – is there a criminal personality?
Classical criminology: A background Humans are rational actors Shift from feudal to industrial society Impact of American and French revolutions
18th Century Classical School On Crimes and Punishments Cesare de Beccaria (1764) Propensity for crime exists in everyone Law should be simple and clear Punishment should be dictated by legislation rather than courts Excessive punishment is not just Punishment should be proportionate, effective and swift, aimed at deterrence
Jeremy Bentham’s Panoptican design British philosopher Pleasure-pain principle Death penalty used for murder Influenced development of modern prison, designing the panopticon
Stateville Correctional Center: USA
Classical theory: summary and Critique(s) Human beings rational & have free will Regulation of crime through modern criminal justice system Based on certainty & efficiency; Prevention, deterrence & proportionate punishment Critique(s): Rationality and free will Power and inequality Assumes people respond in predicted ways to punishment
An introduction to Positivism: Key attributes Methods of natural sciences applicable to the social world Facts as basis of scientific knowledge Facts distinguished from values The laws of natural science could be applied to criminology
Criminality associated with abnormality or defectiveness Phrenology and physiognomy 18th and 19th century
Cesare Lombroso The White Man and the Coloured Man (1871) La Donna Delinquente (the criminal woman) (1893)
Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) The ‘atavistic’ criminal: L’uomo Delinquente (the criminal man, 1876) “…deviation in the head size…excessive dimensions of the jaw, eye defects, ears of unusual size, nose twisted, upturned or flattened in thieves…too few ribs, chin receding, excessive arm length…”(Lombroso, 1876, cited in Wolfgang, 1960:186).
Typology of Criminals - Lombroso Born Criminal Insane Criminal Occasional Criminal Criminals of passion Contribution to eugenics movement
Biological positivism Genetic factors Social Darwinism & Eugenics Positive eugenics – attempts to improve ‘gene pool’ Negative eugenics – sterilisation, segregation in institutions, marriage restraints, immigration restrictions
Biological Positivism: A thing of the past?
Good Beauty and the Bad Beast • Cavior and Howard (1973) • Kurtzberg et al. (1978) These studies remind us of the early claims of physiognomists and the historical belief that physical beauty reflects goodness
William Sheldon’s somatypes (1949)
Endomorph; Mesomorph; Ectomorph
Twin and Adoption Studies: Nature vs. Nurture Twin studies Lange (1929), Christiansen, (1977), Dalgaard and Kringlen (1976) Adoption studies Pollock, Mednick and Gabrielli (1983); Bohman (1995)
Assessing biological positivism “Biological factors almost certainly have some role in the determination of criminal conduct. The extent of this role is generally (very) small. Such effects are heavily mediated by, or only occur in interaction with, broader social or environmental factors” (Newburn, 2007:143).
Critiquing Biological Positivism Failure to challenge legal definitions Difficult to establish cause or effect Linked to racism, anti-semitism, sexism, homophobia, class prejudice
Psychological Positivism: An Introduction For psychological positivists the search for the causes of crime is detected in the mind Three broad categories of psychological theories: Psychodynamic Behavioural learning Cognitive learning
Is there a ‘criminal personality’?
Psychodynamic theories Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939). Three elements to the mind: ID - basic instincts EGO – controls basic instincts SUPEREGO – moral conscience
Link between maternal deprivation & delinquency (Bowlby, 1946)
Learning/behaviour theories: Pavlov’s Dogs
Learning/behaviour theories Skinner’s theory of ‘operant learning’ (1938,1953) Behaviour that results in desirable outcomes will increase in frequency, whereas behaviour that results in undesirable outcomes will decrease.
Sutherland’s theory of ‘differential association’ (1947) Crime is defined socially. Conduct is learned through coming into contact with social norms
To understand why someone commits crime it is necessary to understand their individual learning and what has reinforced their behaviour: Bandura (1977) social learning theory ‘The Bobo doll experiment
Bobo doll experiment
Cognitive theories Piaget (1952) – four stages of childhood development: Sensorimotor: birth – 18 months Preoperational: 18 months – 6 years Concrete operational: 6 – early adolescence Formal operational : adolescence onwards
Eysenck’s personality ‘wheel’
Eysenck’s personality types Extroversion – Assertive, creative, dominant, active, sensation seeking Neuroticism – anxious, depressed, emotional, low self-esteem, moody, shy Psychoticism – aggressive, anti-social, egocentric, impulsive, and lacking empathy
Intelligence & criminality Measuring ‘intelligence’: Binet-Simon (1905), Spearman (1927), Weschler (1949 & 1955) Gardner (1983): seven ‘intelligences’ Linking ‘intelligence’ & criminality: Reiss & Rhodes (1961), Wolfgang, Figlio and Sellin (1972), Farrington (1992)
The Bell Curve – Herrnstein & Murray (1994)
Hernnstein & Murray (1994) As a group, criminals are below average in intelligence More serious offenders have lower IQ than casual offenders High intelligence provides ‘protection’ against risk of criminality Immigration destroys ‘gene’ pool
Critiquing the Bell Curve
Outdated view of intelligence IQ testing is culturally biased Intelligence is ONE risk factor but other sociological factors more important Neglect of ‘white collar’ crime Dangers of Bell Curve ideology for policy development
Nature vs. nurture. An out-dated concept? “…few psychologists still cling to the idea that certain individuals are somehow predetermined into a life of crime. Instead, the ‘nature-nurture’ dichotomy is seen to be less an absolute distinction and more an interacting framework for thinking about causal factors in the commission of crime” (Hayward, 2007: 112). Psychological profiling
Seminar discussion questions: Prepare in advance and be ready to discuss these in your seminar classes next week 1. To what extent do you think crime is the product of individual free will? 2. What, if any, are the dangers of suggesting that biological characteristics may help to explain criminality? 3. How might separation from parents in early childhood contribute to later anti-social behaviour? 4. How relevant do you think psychological positivism is to modern criminology, and why?