Saturday, May 30
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Criminal Content

Four Biological Explanations of Crime

There are four main explanations you need to be able to describe, apply and evaluate:

  • Brain injury – e.g. from an accident or surgery – Phineas Gage
  • Amgydala and aggression – Raine et al. – different activity levels in NGRI compared to controls
  • XYY syndrome – ’too’ male – more aggressive?
  • Personality – Eysenck’s theory of Extraversion, Neuroticism and Psychoticism (high EN are more likely to be ’delinquent’, E means low internal level of arousal, and need more stimulation from the environment, high P = aggressive and anti-social).

Tasks

Practice Questions

  1. Evaluate biological explanations of crime. (16)
  2. George has been accused of murdering his wife Georgette. The lawyers representing George want to explore a range of biological reasons for his behaviour, that they can then use to argue that he was not in control of his own actions. The lawyers representing the prosecution are aware of this line of argument and would like to counter it. With reference to the scenario above, assess the value of biological explanations of criminal behaviour. (12)

Psychological Explanations of Crime

You need to be able to discuss and apply these explanations of crime: labelling theory, self-fulfilling prophecy and social learning theory (i.e. Bandura!).

Tasks and Resources

Labelling Theory and Self Fulfilling Prophecy

Social Learning Theory

Practice Questions

  1. There has been a recent increase in anti-social behaviour amongst girls which has led to more ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) being served.  Evaluate psychological explanations of criminality with reference to this situation. (16)
  2. Compare Social Learning Theory with one other explanation of anti-social behaviour. Identify the explanation in your answer. Comparisons include similarities and differences. (5)
  • The impact of brain injury is similar for males and females
  • However, males are 1.6 x more likely to have a head injury in the UK (female cases have risen by over 20% over the last few years though)
  • Amygdala functioning:
    • some studies have shown males have higher activation when shown emotional scenes,
    • other studies – women show more empathic responses
    • still other studies no difference at all!
    • There does appear to be a link between the size of amygdala and level of fear in women
  • XYY
    • only applies to males so explains a focus on male criminal/antis-social behaviour
    • XYY link to crime isn’t well supported by research
  • Gender differences in types of crime
    • Males tend to be more likely to be convicted for violent (15x more likely to be convicted of homicide than women) or sexual offences
    • Women are more likely to be convicted of property offences (Stealing, etc.)
    • Males make up 4/5 convicted offenders in England/Wales
    • Males are more likely to be repeat offenders
  • Gender differences may also be due to
    • Opportunity (males have more opportunity as women have child-rearing responsibilities)
    • Lower conviction rates for women (because of ‘chivalry’ factor from courts)
    • ‘Hidden’ crimes which may be committed by women and not reported (e.g. petty theft, prostitution)

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Tasks and Resources

You need to know about and evaluate the following treatments for offenders:

  1. A psychological Treatment – Anger Management (a form of CBT)
  2. A biological Treatment – Diet
  • Watch (warning – strong language):

  • Extension: Losing It Documentary

  • Use the slide show below (which contains a number of activities/ideas for you to do/discuss with others).

Offender Treatments

  • Use the textbook (p384 onwards) to revise/learn about CBT for offenders work, Anger Management (follows on using CBT techniques) and diet or hormone/drug treatments
  • Make workbook notes on offender treatments – the workbook focuses on diet
  • Extension: read through and find out about the hormone/drug treatments as well.

Practice Questions

  1. Assess the effectiveness of a psychological treatment for criminality. (12)
  2. Gemma, a keen clubber and drinker, has been convicted of a violent assault that was recorded late on a Friday night outside a popular bar. She goes to prison, but gets early release provided she agrees to undertake biological treatment for her behaviour. With reference to the scenario above, discuss the value of a biological therapy for criminal behaviour. (8)

Tasks and Resources

A psychological formulation a method of understanding the problems a person faces. It looks at a wide range of inter-connected variables including: relationships, biological and social factors, life events (and how that individual feels about those events).

There is no set way of doing a psychological formulation, however the BPS (supported by the HCPC) has some basic guidelines for practitioners to follow to try to increase reliability.

One way of understanding formulation is that it asks – what is the story behind this person that led them to offend in this way?

By understanding an offender in this way, treatments can be offered that are focused on their individual difficulties (e.g. relationships, inability to control aggressive thoughts and behaviour).

It might seem that a behaviour ‘comes out of nowhere’ – but psychological formulation tries to show that behaviour can be understood in context and help offered.

  • Watch (background to formulation):

  • Use the slide show below (which contains a number of activities/ideas for you to do/discuss with others).

LO TBAT discuss psychological formulation

  • Make full workbook notes on psychological formulation. For more strengths and weaknesses use both of the textbooks.

Practice Questions

Evaluate the effectiveness of psychological formulation in diagnosing and treating criminality. (12)

Tasks and Resources

You need to be able to discuss a range of factors that impact the accuracy of eyewitness testimony including: the impact of arousal/stress, post-event information and weapons focus. Much of the research is contradictory – e.g. some findings suggest that weapons focus is a real effect, while others have found that it has no significant impact on EWT accuracy.

  • Watch:

  • Use the slide show below to get more understanding of the factors:

LO TBAT discuss factors that impact EWT accuracy

  • Make full workbook notes on the factors. For more strengths and weaknesses use both of the textbooks.

Practice Question

To what extent is eyewitness testimony affected by factors such as anxiety, stress, and post-event factors? (16)

Tasks and Resources

Research has shown that juries are influenced by factors such as pre-trial publicity,  race, attractiveness – and accent!

  • Watch:

  • Use the slide show below to get more understanding of the factors:

LO TBAT discuss the factors that impact jury decision making

  • Make full workbook notes on the factors. For more strengths and weaknesses use both of the textbooks.

Practice Question

To what extent are juries impacted by factors other than the evidence presented? (16)