Criminal Psychology Notes
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Criminal Psychology Revision
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Criminal psychology Define the application Criminological psychology is the application of psychological knowledge and methods to enrich our understanding of crime and criminal behaviour. This includes defining crime and suggesting possible explanations for criminal behaviour; it also focuses upon the judgement of criminals by studying courtroom procedures and eyewitness techniques. A further aspect of criminological psychology is identifying offenders and predicting future crimes using profiling techniques. Finally, an important part of criminological psychology is to suggest ways of treating offenders in an attempt to rehabilitate them.
Terms and definitions Crime A crime is an act that is against the law or more specifically is a behaviour that violates social norms, moral values, religious beliefs or legal boundaries. Such acts break the law and are therefore subject to punishment. For example, The Children's Act 2004 has made smacking an offence similar to assault. However, criminological psychology also focuses upon anti-social behaviour which is not an actual crime but may have a negative effect on people in society and could potentially become crime at some stage. Anti-Social Behaviour A behaviour that is not necessarily against the law but that the majority of people do not live and do not approve of. It is a behaviour that affects people negatively; the term is often used for aggressive behaviour. Antisocial behaviour can turn into or can be a crime. Examples of anti-social behaviour include excessive noise, abusive language and drunken behaviour. To tackle such anti-social behaviour ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) were introduced in 1998. Recidivism Involves someone repeating a crime or behaviour for which they have been punished or treated (that is, returning to their criminal activities). For example if someone convicted of burglary and punished is freed after the appropriate length of time and then steals again, this will increase recidivism figures. Token Economy Token economy programmes are a form of behaviour modification based on the principles of operant conditioning; specifically reinforcement. Such programmes are used in prisons to encourage pro-social behaviour and involve awarding tokens to offenders if a desired behaviour is performed. The tokens may then be exchanged for various rewards. The aim is for the desired behaviour to be repeated.
Stereotyping Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of groups based on some prior assumptions. There is a tendency to think of a whole group as having certain characteristics based upon evidence from one member of the group and assuming that the same is true of all group members. For example, we may stereotype an individual who is wearing a hoody as being somebody who challenges authority and makes trouble. Modelling Modelling is a way of learning by imitating the behaviour of others. An individual will observe criminal behaviour being demonstrated (modelled) in others around them or via the media; the individual will remember this behaviour and will reproduce it if there is motivation to do so. For example, in Bandura's study children saw an adult modelling aggressive behaviour towards a Bobo doll. Eyewitness Testimony Eyewitness testimony is an account people give of an incident they have witnessed. In criminological psychology, an eyewitness will provide police with a statement about a crime they have witnessed.
How science works Laboratory experiments
Have an independent variable (IV) manipulated by the researcher and a dependant variable (DV) measured to observe the changes brought about the IV manipulation.
Following scientific method, where a hypothesis is derived from a theory, there is testing of some sort and then the hypothesis is accepted or rejected.
Taking place in a controlled artificial environment
Involving careful controls of extraneous variables, such as participant variables (things about the participants, such as hunger and age) and situational variables (things about the situation, such as noise or time of day)
Having careful controls so that cause-and-effect conclusions can be drawn (because if only the IV is changed, only the IV can cause change in the DV)
An example, Loftus and palmer 1974 showed that changing a verb in a question from 'hit' to 'smashed' (or another verb) can change the estimate of speed of a car. Usefulness of lab experiments in criminal psychology Strengths
Lab experiments are scientific: they allow cause-and-effect conclusions to be drawn and the objectivity implies firm conclusions
The careful design to control variables means that a study can be repeated and so the findings tend the be reliable
Courts look for proof from the police, and witness testimony needs to be accurate if someone is to be convicted on the basis of it, so
strong evidence from lab studies is needed. Lab studies tend to be objective and reliable. Weaknesses
lab experiments take place in a controlled artificial setting so are said to lack ecological validity
In respect of court practices, if findings are to be of use they need to be valid and about real life. As lab experiments involve artificial situations, such as pps watching films, they are likely to not be valid with regard to the task.
If findings of a study are not valid or about real life they may not be generalizable. For example, asking students, as Loftus and palmer (1974 did, might mean that findings are not generalizable to every one of all ages, in all situations. Reliability, validity and ethics with regards to lab experiments
Lab experiments tend to have reliable findings because they are scientifically set up and replicable
They tend to have good ethics up to a point, because pps can be given the right to withdraw throughout and to an extent informed consent can be obtained, as the pps are recruited before the study and can be prepared as necessary. However, it is possible to criticise the ethics of individual lab experiments, for example there is often a need for deception.
Lab experiments tend to lack validity, because the setting is artificial and the task is often limited rather than resembling real life. Field experiments
have an independent variable (IV) manipulated by the researcher and a dependant variable (DV) measured to observe the changes brought about by the IV manipulation
Following scientific method, where a hypothesis is derived from a theory, there is testing of some sort and then the hypothesis is accepted or rejected, which supports the theory or does not.
Taking place in the pps natural setting in some way- in the 'field'
Involving careful controls of extraneous variables, such as pps variables (things about the pps, such as hunger and age) and situational variables (things about the situation, such as noise and time of day)
Having careful controls so that cause-and-effect conclusions can be drawn (because if only the IV is changed, only the IV can cause change in the DV)
Example, Yarmey (2004) Usefulness of field experiments in criminal psychology Strengths
Field experiments are scientific: they allow cause-and-effect conclusions to be drawn and the objectivity implies firm conclusions
The careful design to control variables means that that the study can be repeated and so the findings tend to be reliable. And IV is manipulated and a DV is measured after as many extraneous variables as possible have been controlled
Courts look for proof from the police, and witness testimony needs to be accurate if someone is to be convicted on the basis of it, so strong evidence from field experiments is needed. Field experiments tend to be objective and reliable and also take place in a natural setting so there is some validity
It is possible that field experiments are more useful than laboratory experiments with regards to applying their findings to court and police procedures, because lab experiments tend to lack validity (they take place in a controlled artificial setting) whereas field experiments are more valid (they take place in the field) Weaknesses
Field experiments take place in a controlled setting up to a point, because any extraneous variables that can be controlled are controlled. However, in the field there are likely to be variables that cannot be controlled, such as the weather or peoples experiences of the setting
Pps for field experiments are often people who happen to be there on the day. So the sampling is volunteer to an extent and generalising might be limited because of bias in the sample
Field experiments use specific procedures (such as asking a pps to pick out of a line-up someone who has approached them once to ask a simple question), whereas real incidents may be more complex and/or have other features. Therefore findings might not be generalizable (for example to other witness situations), and it might not be appropriate to apply such findings to court proceedings and police procedures Reliability, validity and ethics with regard to field experiments
Field experiments can be reliable because the scientific procedures tend to mean they are replicable. However, the lack of controls over certain circumstances, because the study is in a natural setting, means that replications of studies might not be exact
Field experiments can also be ethical because, as with laboratory studies, it is known beforehand what the procedures will be so pps can be asked for consent. However, if the setting is to be natural it often means that the pps are not informed beforehand that they are taking part
Field experiments tend to have validity is the sense that they take part in the natural setting. This means they have good ecological validity. However, the task is still artificial as the IV is manipulated, so there might be lack of validity to that extent
Anti-social behaviour order
Court order which forbids and offender who has behaved anti socially from specific threatening or intimidating actions
Prevent someone from behaving in certain manners, prevent going to certain places, spending time with particular person or group
Minimum of two years
Civil order therefore does not go down on any criminal record however if broken can become criminal offence and earn them a fine Social learning theory (SLT)
SLT is based on principles of observational learning and operant conditioning
Observational learning suggests that people imitate behaviour they have seen and refers to vicarious reinforcement
Tend to imitate people (role models) of same gender, similar age, who are like them or just people they look up too, this is modelling
Bandura (1977) described what he considered to be the four cognitive processes in observational learning:
Attention- the role model must have attention and the behaviour should be observed
Retention- the observer must be able to retain a memory of the observed behaviour
Reproduction- the observer must have the ability to reproduce the learned behaviour
Motivation- there must be motivation for the observer to reproduce the behaviour
Bandura (1977) also identified 3 factors which he thought determined whether or not a model is imitated:
Vicarious consequences- if the model is punished the behaviour is less likely to be copied, if the model is rewarded for showing a certain behaviour and the observer views the crime as victimless, it is more likely to be imitated (vicarious reinforcement)
External motivation- once the behaviour has been copied the rules of operant conditioning apply; positive reinforcement- receiving something good for an action e.g. getting material gain from a criminal activity such as robbery, therefore it is likely to be repeated for the same rewards. Negative reinforcement- removal of something bad when certain behaviour is shown e.g. criminal who seals might have their financial hardship removed therefore is likely to repeat for the same rewards. If punished the behaviour is less likely to reoccur
Self-reinforcement- a behaviour is more likely to be repeated if it satisfies some internal needs, e.g.
excitement when committing the crime or a feeling of power
Bandura (1961) Evaluation of Social Learning Theory as an explanation for criminal/antisocial behaviour. Strengths
There is a vast quantity of experimental evidence to show that behaviour is imitated, including aggressive behaviour.
For example, Bandura Ross and Ross 1961 showed that children will imitate aggression when they see it modelled by an adult, especially when the model is the same sex as them.
Further research by Bandura (1965) showed the importance of vicarious reinforcement. Children shown a film of a model acting aggressively to a Bobo doll saw one of 3 endings; model rewarded; model ignored or model punished. The least amount of spontaneous aggression was shown when children saw the model punished.
Lab based research like this is likely to be high in reliability but low in ecological validity.
Due to the controls in this study a cause and effect relationship can be established.
The theory has a practical application and may be used to rehabilitate offenders by using suitable role models to help them learn appropriate behaviour in conjunction with reinforcement. Volunteers will enter prisons and will act as a role model for offenders, be a positive influence on them, assist them in gaining confidence and achieving their goals.
Some individuals may have a predisposition to anti-social/criminal behaviour and are maybe more likely to seek out media violence. This would explain why not all individuals who observe media violence will imitate what they see; it is only those who already have such violent tendencies as a result of their disposition. Such individuals may be more likely to be affected by the media and to imitate violent acts without questioning whether it is morally acceptable to display such behaviour. Weakness
The theory is reductionist focusing only on how an individual is influenced by social factors and does not consider biological explanations of why an individual might turn to crime that violence tendencies are genetic, or a psychodynamic view that violence is simply a cathartic release of emotion.
The theory fails to take into account individual differences in important factors such as moral development and whether the individual has a natural predisposition to anti-social behaviour due to their personality. Social learning theory seems to start with the assumption that all individuals learn aggression if they are exposed to media violence and ignores the existence of individual differences.
There is some refuting evidence to suggest that social learning theory cannot explain criminal/antisocial behaviour.
For example, quasi experiments like Charlton (2000)
found no effect of the introduction of TV on the amount of aggression shown by young children even when the children were exposed to media violence.
However, although quasi experiments allow us to ethically investigate a phenomenon such as increased exposure to TV, there is a lack of control. For example, the representativeness of the sample of participants is decided by natural occurrence rather than experimenter control. Furthermore, for some research it is difficult to establish a link between observational learning and criminal behaviour because there is a lack of control over the experience of viewing anti-social behaviour and the time lapse possible before the behaviour is displayed.
The theory does not explain all types of crime, for example it does not account for criminal behaviour that is opportunistic and has not been observed first - it tends to account more for stealing, aggression and other crimes that are easily observed in society rather than murder for example. Labelling and the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (SFP)
States that we become what others expect us to become
The 4 stages of a self-fulfilling prophecy (SFP)
Labelling tends to come from stereo typing, which is where someone is seen to have characteristics of a group to which they belong, sometimes there is no direct evidence for this stereotype
For example someone wearing a hoodie could be labelled as a person who performs a lot of anti-social behaviour
2. Treating the person according to the label
people are suspicious and give the individual little opportunity to change or disprove the assigned criminal label
For example when walking past someone wearing a hoodie a woman could hold her hand bag more tightly making it obvious that she is worried the person wearing the hoodie might try and steal from her
3. The person reacts by acting according to the label
Anti-social behaviour is caused by the individuals response to others expectations
4. The person's behaviour fulfils the expectations which confirm the label. A self-fulfilling prophecy has occurred.
The person wearing the hoodie internalises the label and continues to show antisocial behaviour Example of self-fulfilling prophecy and crime. Jahoda (1954)
Studied the Ashanti tribe of West Africa where boys and girls are named after the day of the week they are born.
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