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Evaluation: Biological Explanations of Crime


A level Psychology (Criminal Psychology) Mind Map on Evaluation: Biological Explanations of Crime, created by Katie Greensted on 05/26/2019.
Katie Greensted
Mind Map by Katie Greensted, updated more than 1 year ago
Katie Greensted
Created by Katie Greensted about 3 years ago

Resource summary

Evaluation: Biological Explanations of Crime
  1. Brain injury
    1. Cognitive abilities such as impulse control and forward planning are some of the last aspects of the brain to develop.
      1. An ABI (acquired brain injury) could disrupt this development, meaning that the individual may fail to move beyond reckless and risk-taking behaviour which is sometimes associated with childhood. This may lead to increased crime and anti-social behaviour.
        1. Williams et al found that 60% of a sample of 196 inmates from a UK prison recalled a history of one or more brain injuries in their youth. Furthermore, they found that this group tended to be younger at the time of their first offence, had higher rates of recidivism, and had spent more time in prison over the last five years than the rest of the sample.
        2. Injuries to the brain may also destabilise mood, concentration and decision-making, meaning that offending behaviour may be more likely.
          1. Fazel et al found that there was a higher percentage of Swedish individuals who suffered a traumatic brain injury and committed a violent crime compared to a group of matched controls, suggesting that physical trauma to the brain may cause violent crimes.
          2. However, supporting studies often show a correlation between the two, but this does not necessarily show causation. Other variables may have had an influence, for example individuals who have sustained serious head injuries are more likely to experience mental illness, or be alcohol/drug abusers. These factors may predispose an individual to offend, rather than it being the brain injury itself.
          3. Amygdala and aggression
            1. The amygdala is located in the brain's limbic system which helps direct how we react to threatening situations.
              1. Abnormalities in the size, structure and activity of the amygdala correlates with an increase in aggression, which could make criminal behaviour more likely.
                1. Raine observed that there was a reduced level of activity in several areas of the brains of NGRIs (murderers), including the left amygdala. This shows that there is a relationship between the amygdala and criminal behaviour.
                  1. Pardini found that a group of 26-year-old men with a reduced amygdala size were 3x more likely to be aggressive, violent and show psychopathic traits compared to a group with a normal-sized amygdala.
                    1. A weakness of this idea is that the amygdala is implicated with other regions of the brain. It is suggested that the amygdala does not operate alone, but with other areas of the brain, such as the OFC which is a part of the frontal lobe and is thought to regulate self control - its reduced functioning is associated with increased aggression and violent outbursts. This means that the influence of the amygdala on aggression and crime is hard to disentangle.
                2. XYY syndrome
                  1. About 1 in 1000 males are born with an extra Y chromosome, which is known as having XYY syndrome.
                    1. Males with XYY syndrome are typically taller than average, have lower intelligence, can be more impulsive and experience behavioural difficulties. This may lead them to be more likely to commit crimes or to partake in anti-social behaviour.
                      1. Early studies reported a connection between XYY syndrome and aggression and crime. Jacobs et al found that men with XYY were over-represented in prison populations compared to the general population. The idea of a criminal chromosomal pattern was widely publicised at the time.
                        1. However, there is a lack of evidence to support this supposed relationship. Re and Birkhoff conducted a meta-analysis using data from over 50 years and concluded that there is no link between XYY and offending behaviour. It is suggested that where there is a prevalence of XYY males in prison populations it may be more due to social factors, such as XYY males finding it more difficult to integrate into society and find work. The lack of evidence therefore suggests XYY is not a credible explanation of crime.
                    2. Application
                      1. Biological research could lead to new ways in assessing criminal culpability.
                        1. Williams, for example, argued for an increased awareness surrounding brain injuries throughout the criminal justice system, including a screening of young people when they first offend. They recommended that neural injuries should be treated the same way as mental illness in court, and that it should result in a reduced punishment as the individual is less responsible for their crime.
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