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					      Biological Theories of
              Crime

1.   Main assumptions
2.   Lombroso
3.   Sheldon
4.   XYY Male
Introduction
 We often judge others by how they look even
 though we know that “appearances are
 deceiving”
 Research on impact of “physical appearance”
Criminal “Type”
 Most defense attorneys coach their clients
 on how they should dress and groom
 themselves for court so jurors will get the
 impression they are not the “type” of person
 who would commit a crime
Character and physical appearance
 We frequently make inferences about
 another person’s character based on his/her
 appearance
 Ancient Greeks and Romans believed in
 “physiognomy” (physical features can
 reveal a person’s natural disposition)
 “Do not trust beardless men and bearded
 women”
Physiognomy as Practiced in Europe




 A choleric person has a "hot" temperament, is irritable
 and easily roused to anger
 A melancolic person is pensive and tends to feel sad
 A phlegmatic person is not easily aroused to excitement
 and lacks emotion expression
 A sanguine person is confident and optimistic
Biological Theories
 Biological theories tended towards seeing
 crime as a form of illness, caused by
 pathological factors specific to certain
 classes of individuals
 “bad” behaviour vs “sick” behaviour
 How can we blame someone for being sick?
Leprosy
 Has left behind a terrifying image in history
 and human memory - mutilation, rejection
 and exclusion from society
 The idea that ugly is evil
Leprosy
 Leprosy is not highly infectious
 It is transmitted via droplets, from the nose and
 mouth, during close and frequent contacts with
 untreated cases
 In 9 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America
 leprosy is still considered a public health problem
 These countries account for about 75% of the
 global disease burden
Criminal behavior and pathology
 Pathology, in this respect, relates to the idea
 that the criminal cannot help but commit
 crime
 In this respect, the cause of law-breaking
 might, for example, be found in a chemical
 imbalance in the brain
Biological Theory
 The individual is not responsible for his/her
 actions
 Cognitive Ability and Biology
Biological Theories
 The criminal is radically different from the
 non-criminal
 We can assume that some people are "born
 criminals“
 Punishment is inapplicable
Biological theories
 Crime has been redefined as “sick” rather
 than “bad” behavior
 “Medicalization” of behavior (hyperactive
 children are given medicine)
 Search for individuals traits rather than
 social factors
The Underlying Logic


Atavism                   Inability to
            Mental and     Learn and     Criminal
             Physical     Follow legal   Behavior
            Inferiority       rules
Defective
 genes
Lombroso’s Theory
   Bodily constitution indicates whether a
  person is “born criminal”
  “Born criminal” violates the laws
  “born criminal” is an “atavism” (throwback
  to an earlier stage of human evolution)
  Physical makeup,
mental capabilities,
and instincts of primitive man
Lombroso’s Theory

 Observed the physical characteristics of
 Italian prisoners and compared them to
 Italian soldiers
 Concluded that criminals were physically
 different
 Lombroso presented a long list of physical
 characteristics used to identify criminals
Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909)
  Asymmetry of the face or
  head, large monkey-like ears,
  large lips, twisted nose,
  excessive cheek bones, long
  arms, excessive skin wrinkles
  The male with five or more of
  these physical anomalies is
  marked as a born criminal
  Female criminals are also born
  criminals, but they may be
  identified with as few as three
  anomalies
Tattoos
 Were significant to Lombroso
 Most of the “born criminals”
  had them
 Obscene nature of their depictions and
 messages
 Tattoos stood as evidence of both
 insensitive to physical pain and immorality
Criminal Women
 Official records, according to which women
 had a far lower crime rate than men, is
 misleading
 Women are less evolved: naturally vengeful
 and jealous, their moral sensibilities are
 deficient, less sensitive to pain than men
The Female Offender (1897)
 Co-authored with William
 Ferrero
 Natural selection is the
 reason for existence of a
 greater number of male than
 female born criminals
 Men are less likely to breed
 with physically deformed
 women
The Female Offender (1897)

 Women have less chances
 to transmit their genes
 Degenerative traits in
 women would be less
 likely than such traits in
 men to survive over time
Lombroso
 Born criminal is unsuited for society
 Inevitably violate social and legal rules
 Theories of genetic superiority call for
 policy in which whole peoples are to be
 eliminated from the genetic stock of the
 world in order to prevent crime
 Theories of individual genetic
 inferiority call for castration of those
 said to be habitual criminals in order to
 prevent their producing more defective
 children who, presumably will be
 criminals
Frontispiece of
Criminal Man
  Lombroso claimed that to
  the trained eye, the eye
  of the detective, these
  people would clearly be
  organized into categories
  Those in group "A" are
  all shoplifters, "B" are
  swindlers, "H" are purse
  snatchers, "E" are
  murderers, etc.
  And supposedly you can
  see a man's real character
  at a glance.
The New Sciences of Detection
 By the 1880s, urban police forces began
 developing new techniques for keeping
 track of criminals, especially new
 techniques of record-keeping
 Most of these techniques were heavily
 influenced by criminology
Mug Shots
 The mug shot originated in the
 1880s, in studies designed to
 explore the relationship
 between appearance and
 criminal behavior
 These men are all forgers. The
 New York Police Department
 compiled this record in part to
 see if all forgers looked alike,
 or all murderers looked alike,
 or if all burglars had the same
 facial features
Critique of Lombroso

 Theory overlooks the bright and handsome
 criminals
 Theory ignores those who are ugly and live lives
 of productive and cooperative labor
 Theory does not look at the variations over time
 in crime rates. Since genes change very slowly,
 there should be a steady rate of crime over the
 centuries. That is not the case. Crime rates vary
 dramatically.
Critique of Lombroso
 He was studying the very poor - people
 whose physical development had been
 affected by poverty, poor nutrition
 Not everyone who breaks the law ends
 up in prison
 This type of theorising neglects the idea
 that there is a "grey area" of criminality -
 people who commit crimes but who are
 not caught and therefore not imprisoned.
Charles Goring (1913)
 Junior medical officer in the English prison service
 Tested the concept of “born criminal”
 He used statistical analysis to determine the
 presence of 37 Lombrosian characteristics in the
 criminal population (2,348 convicts)
 Compared criminals with “non-criminal public”
 (undergraduate students, soldiers, inmates of two
 separate hospitals)
 Findings: no evidence of a physical type criminal
Body Types
 Criminality is explained by reference to the
 offenders’ body types
 Genetics, or external observable physical
 characteristics
Ernst Kretschmer
 “Biopsychological constitutional typology”
 Cycloid (fat) personality, associated with heavy,
 soft type of body, lacks spontaneity and
 sophistication. Commit mostly non violent
 property crimes
 Schizoids (athletic body type) commit violent
 types of offenses
 Displastics (mixed group) are highly emotional,
 unable to control themselves, commit mostly
 sexual offenses and other crimes of passion.
W. Sheldon: "Varieties of Delinquent Youth"

 Endomorph:
 Body: fat, round
 Psych: luxury, sloth, consumption.
 Ectomorph:
 Body: frail, skinny, gangly
 Psych: introverts, cunning, stealth.
 Mesomorph:
 Body: large, strong, hard
 Psych: active, dynamic, assertive, forceful.
Endomorph, Mesomorph, Ectomorph
Research
 Study-200 boys, Hayden Goodwill Institute. 7
 point somotyping scale, 650 psychological
 attributes. Disproportionately mesomorphic--
 more prone to delinquency.
 Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck (1950's): 800
 delinquents/matched sample of non-
 delinquents==> delinquents more likely to be
 mesomorphs.
Questions/Problems

 Maybe need a tough body to gain
 acceptance/survive on the streets.
 Body type and social meaning--the boys
 were already judged to be delinquent.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder (brain dysfunction)
  Lack of attention, impulsivity, hyperactivity
  Blue, green - areas of low metabolism
  3% of children (boys)
  Poor school performance
  Poor discipline
  Stimulants like Ritalin
  Control emotional outburst
Symptoms of Attention Deficit
 Frequently fails to finish projects
 Does not seem to pay attention
 Does not sustain interest in play
 activities
 Is easily distracted
 Frequently acts without thinking
 Does not want to wait his/her turn
 in lines or games
 Shifts from activity to activity
 Cannot organize tasks or work
XYY: The super-male

 The extra Y chromosome creates a strong
 compulsion that the XYY carrier is at
 extreme risk of committing violent crimes
 The findings of some studies that the
 proportion of XYY males is prison
 population (from 1 to 3 %) is higher than
 in general male population (less than 1%)
 is accepted as evidence of the theory
The XYY “Super-male”
 Patricia Jacobs (1965) examined 198 Scottish
 prisoners for chromosomal abnormalities
 (blood test known “karyotyping”)
 12 members of the group displayed XYY
 (only 3.5% of prison population)
 1976 Danish study of 4,000 men found that the
 incidence of XYY men was less than 1% in
 the general male population
The XYY “Super-male”
 Crimes for which XYY men were convicted
 were not violent ones
 More XY men were convicted for violent
 offenses
200 studies on XYY males

 Super-males are taller than average male,
 often standing more than 6’1’’
 Suffer from acne or skin disorder
 Have less than average intelligence
 Come from families with a lower than
 average history of crime or mental illness
Mental deficiency
 Next to physical deformity, mental deficiency has
 been the second most popular explanation of
 crime
 "Intelligence" generally consists of different
 abilities, such as the ability to reason, solve
 problems, think abstractly, learn and understand
 new material, adapt to novel situations quickly,
 grasp complex relationships, and profit from past
 experience
 In other words, intelligence is "catching on,"
 "making sense" of things, or "figuring out" what to
 do.
IQ
 Most people cluster around the average (IQ 100), with
 about 3% of Americans regularly scoring above IQ 130
 (the threshold for "gifted"), and about 3% regularly scoring
 below IQ 70 (the threshold for "retarded")
 People at the lowest two levels, profoundly and severely
 retarded, have to be institutionalized
 The moderately or mildly retarded can stay with family or
 friends, although the amount of care required would be
 burdensome
 Slow learners are a large, diverse group. People in the low
 range (71-80) of this group have been variously called
 "idiots", "morons", "stooges", or "sixth-graders“
 People in the high range (81-90) have usually been called
 "challenged" or "disabled“
THE RACIAL BIAS CONTROVERSY

 African Americans (as well as some other minority
 groups), on average, score about 15 points below those of
 European ancestry on intelligence tests
 Many studies have consistently found that the average IQ
 of an African American is 85 while the average IQ of a
 white American is 100, and that one in five African
 Americans have an average IQ of 75 (Seligman 1992).
 Another way that this is often reported is to say that a 17-
 year old African American performs at the reading, math,
 and science level of a 13-year old white.
Explanations for IQ scores
 Many critics to question whether IQ really
 measures intelligence or some sort of "test-
 taking" skill
 IQ test questions are "culturally biased“
Schooling can affect intelligence
 Attendance is the primary variable here, and
 regardless of debates over the quality of schooling,
 research has consistently shown that students who
 skip school on a relatively frequent or intermittent
 basis suffer from lower IQ
 When parents move a child to a better school,
 there may be a small, measurable increase in IQ,
 but it is just as likely that there will be no change
 in IQ
Family Factor Research
 Motivating children toward intelligence via
 encouragement, coaching, and modeling
 Studies have consistently shown that smaller families (with
 less children) tend to produce higher-IQ children
 Also, first-born children are usually the smartest, with IQ
 decreasing as one moves down the birth order
 Prenatal care for expectant mothers is very important, and
 there is a condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome (low
 IQ and behavioral problems) which happens if the mother
 drinks large amounts of alcohol
 Prolonged malnutrition during infancy also produces low
 IQ

				
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