January 6, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Social Science, Law, Criminal Justice
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COGNITION: the role of thought in crime.

Determinism vs Free Will

Can you help what you do? Do you have your own mind? Is your fate pre-determined? Can criminality be outside your control?

Some good films to watch to see criminal thinking patterns in action Goodfellas The Godfather This is England The Departed

Criminal thinking patterns: Tell me if any of these acts are okay: 1 Mugging an old lady. 2 Stealing a car. 3 Killing your spouse in a jealous rage. 4 Shoplifting an item under £10 in value. 5 Giving a false address in order to get your child into the school of your choice. 6 Killing at least 13 women because the voices in your head told you to do so.

Bad? Or mad? Actus reus – the act of committing a crime (ie you are definitely guilty of the action involved in the crime). Mens rea – the 'free will' element of the crime (ie did you realise what you were doing, were you responsible for your actions?)

Diminished responsibility

What's your understanding of this legal term?

Peter Sutcliffe and mens rea &feature=playerembedded

Diminished responsibility: Homicide act (1957) When an individual is suffering from an abnormality of mind* which substantially impairs the responsibility of acts or omissions. * can include extreme anger, emotional imbalance, intoxication as well as mental illness. Defence must prove a defect of reason at time of the offence.

Criminal thinking patterns. Focus of this topic:

- do criminals think differently to non-criminals? - can criminal thinking patterns be changed? - by changing thinking patterns can you prevent crime?


Yochelson & Samenow, A study of thinking patterns in criminals.

Pp15-16 in textbook.

Y & S have been working in this field – cognition and criminality for over 30 years. They are very interested in how criminals rationalise their crimes.

Before we look at our key study, some background... Their work is longitudnal so has many date references for separate findings. 1976 – 240 male offenders interviewed. Y&S found that: * criminals slightly less intelligent than non-c * in control of lives, crimes result of choice * distorted self-image = denial of own role in crimes; no sense of responsibility – 40 'thinking errors.

Key Study: Participants – 255 male offenders, mixed demographic; roughly half deemed insane (confined to secure hospital) and half 'normal' (prison). All had been found guilty of their crimes. No control group of non-c's.

Aims of study: 1 To understand the criminal personality. 2 To develop ways of treating personality disorders. 3 To encourage c's to understand legal responsibility. 4 To develop ways of preventing criminal behaviour.

Method: Interviews conducted over a period of several years. So – quantitative or qualitiative data collected? Advantages/disadvantages of this method?

Huge catalogue of findings.

Here are some:

* restlessness, dissatisfaction, irritability of c's * want excitement * lack empathy * are highly self-interested and disregard any rules/laws which compromise this * jump to conclusions and judge poorly

BUT...they are already in prison, which suggests what about them?

Yes, that's right... As the interviewees were already in prison they clearly are: a) already in a criminal 'mindset' which may have been exagerrated by being incarcerated. b) they are not very good at eluding capture (ie smarter criminals have higher IQ but not in study cos not captured!) c) they are used to lying/deceit. d) most people in prison are liable to feel 'restless and dissatisfied'. e) we don't know what their thinking patterns were prior to incarceration.

Did the interviews rehabilitate the c's? In a word, no. Only 30 made it through to end of study. 9 had genuinely changed the way they thought. Techniques used included Freudian psychotherapy – why do you think Y&S used this?

Problem: Y&S had originally wanted to find cause of crim beh. In interviews lots of c's lied (big surprise) and gave the answers they thought would help their situation. So...Y&S looked at their thinking patterns instead, as this was easier to analyse.

Thinking errors: Y&S now had 52 thinking errors that defined criminal thinking patterns. Non-c's also make these errors but c's make more of them more often. non-c control group so hard to know extent of this. Research evolved out of clinical practice, not originally intended as a separate study.

HOMEWORK: Write one paragraph on each of the following: * Why might the public/victim's family object to a diminished responsibility verdict in a notorious murder case? * Why is the sample a problem in this study? * Who would make the ideal control group in this study?

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