Rational choice theory (25) Prep

Anja Schutte
Note by Anja Schutte, updated more than 1 year ago
Anja Schutte
Created by Anja Schutte over 3 years ago
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Rational choice theory exam prep

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Rational Choice Theory (25)  Introduction:  This theory focuses on the rationality in human actions, and emphasizes the human decision-making process. This theory also focuses on the background factors which influenced and shaped the offender, such as intelligence, neighborhood context, gender and family upbringing. Rational choice theory forms part of classical and neoclassical schools.  Definitions:  Rational Choice theory – Theory emphasizing on the importance of rationality in human actions and the human decision-making process involved in making choices.  Classical criminology – emphasizes is on the approach that crime is committed by people with free will, who rationally weighs up risks and benefits and has been consciously carried out.   Body/Contents:  Cornish and Clarkes' approach assumes that offenders have criminal motivations. These criminal motivations are deep rooted inclinations or dispositions to participate or commit crime.  They're created by background factors; temperament, family upbringing, intelligence, cognitive style, class origin, neighborhood context and gender.   Cornish and Clarke summarized their basis of rational choice theory in six propositions, namely;  Crimes are deliberate acts and choices, and are committed with the intention to benefit the offender.   Offenders try to make the best decision given the risks and uncertainty involved.  The decision-making varies and depends on the nature of the crime.  Involvement decisions and event decisions vary from each other, involvement decisions comprise of initiation, habituation and desistance. Whereas event decision involves a series of choices, made at each step of the criminal act.  There is always some degree of rationality involved, even when a crime seems completely irrational, it might just be limited. This is also known as bounded rationality. Thus, all offenders think before they act, even if it's just momentary and based on assumptions.  The process of making choices and decisions, exhibits a measure of rationality, although the process may be limited. Cornish and Clarke argue that the process occurs in two major stages; initial involvement stage and adopting a crime-specific focus.   Crimes are deliberate and decisions and choices are rationally made and decided upon. Deciding on committing a criminal act can be summarized as follow; offenders rarely have all the facts on the risks, efforts and rewards of a crime, decisions and choices has to be made quickly, the crime is not fully planned and does rely on some degree of improvisation and offenders tend to shift their focus onto rewards rather than risks.   By studying the process of decision making, it is possible to reduce opportunities that makes these crimes possible. This approach focuses on changing the aspects of the situation rather than trying to change the offender.   This theory however, does not take into consideration the persons' social context, and treats all offenders as only rational decision makers.   Conclusion:  Rational choice theory suggest that all offenders are rational, selfish pleasure-seekers, who make decisions and choices by weighing the pros and cons. This theory further suggests that some people will always commit crimes given an opportunity. However, it is possible to deter offenders, by making them think the cost or punishment outweighs the rewards or benefits of the crime.  

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