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									Theory Construction and
1.   Quiz # 1
2.   Theory Evaluation
What is Theory?

   Theory is a set on interconnected
    statements or propositions that explain
    how two or more events or factors are
    related to one another
The parts of Theory
 Concepts are building blocks of theory
 A concept is an idea expressed as a
  symbol or in words
 S=d/t; height ;urbanization; poverty
 Concepts have two parts: A symbol (word
  or term) and a definition
The parts of Theory
 Assumptions are statements about the
  nature of things that are not observable or
 For example, the concept “book” assumes
  a system of writing, people who can read,
  and the existence of paper
 Without such assumptions idea of a book
  makes little sense
The parts of Theory
 “Racial prejudice” rests on several
 People who make distinction among
  individuals based on their racial heritage,
  attach specific characteristics to
  membership in a racial group, and make
  judgment about goodness of these
 Theories contain concepts, their
  definitions, and assumptions
 More specifically, theories specify how
  concepts are related to one another
 R. Merton’s anomie theory of deviance
  argues that people can understand
  nondeviance and deviance by considering
  two key concepts: the goals that a society
  defines as worth pursuing and the
  legitimate means to achieve these goals
Merton’s Theory
 Nondeviance occurs when people accept
  cultural goals and use a socially legitimate
  means to reach them
 Deviance occurs when this is not the case
 Merton made a causal statement
  (proposition) about the expected
  relationship among concepts (variables)
The aspects of Theory
 Direction of reasoning
 The level of social reality that it explains
 Whether it is substantial or formal
Direction of theorizing
 Deductive approach
 Inductive approach
Level of Theory
   Micro-level theory deals with small slices of time,
    space , or number of people
   Social Bond Theory (Hirschi, 1969)
   Meso-level theory attempts to link macro and
    micro levels or to operate at an intermediate
    level. Theories of social movements,
    organizations, or communities are often at this
    level (Merton’s theory)
   Macro-level theory concerns the operation of
    larger aggregates such as social institutions.
    Entire cultural systems, and whole societies
Macro/Micro relationship
   Until recently, one the major division of
    20th century in sociology theory was
    conflict between Macro/Micro
   Many argued polemically that one level is
    more fundamental than the other
   There is mutual interrelations between
    micro and macro levels
 Social Structure and Social Learning Theory

                                               Criminal Behavior
 Social Structure          Social Learning
                                               Conforming Behavior
Society     Age   Family      Differential
                              Association         Individual
Community   Sex   Peers
                              Definitions         Behavior
            Race School
            Class Others
                              Other Learning
Focus of Theory
 Substantive theory is developed for a
  specific area of social concern, such as
  delinquent gangs, strikes, divorce, or race
 Formal theory is developed for a broad
  conceptual area in general theory, such as
  deviance, socialization, or power
Focus of Theory
 If you want to generate a substantive
  theory, then you should think of cases
  within the same substantive area. You
  might compare several gangs, but you do
  not have to theorize about deviance in
 If you want to generate a formal theory,
  then you should compare cases within the
  same form area. You might examine
  various forms of deviance (medical,
  folkways, legal, etc)
Criteria for Evaluating Theory
 Logical consistency
 Propositions of a theory have to be
  logically stated and internally consistent
 Theory that state that criminals are
  biologically deficient cannot claim that
  socialization is the cause of criminal
Criteria for Evaluating Theory
 The Scope of a theory refers to the range
  of phenomena which it proposes to explain
 A theory that accounts only for the crime
  of check forgery may be accurate, but it is
  obviously very limited in scope
Criteria for Evaluating Theory
 Parsimony (simplicity of theory’s
  structure). The theory based on fewest
  assumptions and requiring the fewest
  propositions is considered the superior
 A theory which proposes that all crime are
  caused by low self-control is much more
  parsimonious than a theory that requires a
  set of multiple hypotheses to explain
Differential Association is based upon
these nine postulates:
1. Criminal behavior is learned
2. Criminal behavior is learned in interaction with others
  persons in a process of communication
3. The principal part of the learning of criminal behavior
  occurs within intimate personal groups
4. When criminal behavior is learned, the learning includes
  techniques of committing the crime, which are sometimes
  very complicated, sometimes simple and the specific
  direction of motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes
5. The specific direction of motives and drives is learned
  from definitions of the legal codes as favorable or
  unfavorable to committing deviant acts
Differential Association is based upon
these nine postulates:
  6. A person becomes delinquent because of an excess of
  definitions favorable to violation of law over definitions
  unfavorable to violation of the law

  7. Differential associations may vary in frequency,
  duration, priority, and intensity.
       Priority - the age of children when first understand
         criminal behavior
       Intensity - the level of prestige associated with a
         person or group
       Frequency - number of contacts a person has with
         groups that condone criminal behavior
       Duration - the length of time the relationship will last
         and so its influence over the persons behavior
Differential Association is based upon these
nine postulates:
8. The process of learning criminal behavior by
  association with criminal and anticriminal
  patterns involves all of the mechanisms that are
  involved in any other learning

9. While criminal behavior is an expression of
  general needs and values, it is not explained by
  those general needs and values, since non
  criminal behavior is an expression of the same
  needs and values
Criteria for Evaluating Theory
 Testability by objective and repeatable
  evidence (theory which are untestable are
  not scientific)
 Example: If we states that low-self
  control is the failure to refrain from crime,
  we cannot state that low-self control is a
  cause of law violation
Untestable theories
 Propositions are open-ended so that any
  contradictory empirical evidence can be
  interpreted or re-interpreted to support
  the theory
 A theory may propose that males who
  robe banks are motivated by an
  unconscious impulse to resolve their guilt
  over their childhood sexual attraction
  toward their mothers
Untestable theories
 If research finds enough bank robbers
  who fit this description, then the theory is
 If research uncover that bank robbers
  claim their only motive is money then that
  does not mean that the theory is rejected
 Denial of these feeling by robbers
  supports the theory, because the same
  unconscious impulse that motivated them
  to rob also rendered them unconscious of
  their true motivation
Untestable Theories
 A theory may also be untestable because
  its concepts are not measurable by
  observable events
 If a theory proposes that people commit
  crimes because they are obsessed by
  invisible demons, there is no way to prove
 Imitation in social learning theory is
  observable thing
Criteria for Evaluating Theory
 Empirical validity means that a theory
  has been supported by research evidence
 None of the theories is found to be
  entirely true or false
 The questions is, what degree of empirical
  support does the theory have (weak or
Criteria for Evaluating Theory
 Usefulness and Policy implications
 Every criminological theory implies a
  therapy or policy
 The better the theory explain the problem,
  the better it is able to guide efforts to
  solve the problem
In class-assignment # 2(Extracredit)

 Level of analysis (macro/micro/meso)
 Formal/Substantive
 Scope/Parsimony/logical consistency

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