What forces a criminal to indulge in criminal activities is a question which has led to development of different theories. Each theory adopts a different direction and a different approach in answering the reasons for the person being involved in certain kind of acts. These are commonly referred to as the psychological theories of crime (Henderson, 2017). There are three leading theories in this regard, and these are psychodynamic theory, behavioural theory, and the cognitive theory. The theory which would be focused on for the purpose of this discussion is the behavioural theory which maintains that the behaviour of a person is developed through the learning experiences. So the behaviourists view crime as a learned response to the situations of life (Akers, 2013). This theory would be specifically analysed in context of the Australian criminal Mark Chopper Read, who was a famous gang member on whom the 2000 movie Chopper was based. This discussion would show how the various factors surrounding Mark resulted in him becoming a convicted criminal, particularly by applying the theory of behaviourism. In doing so, firstly the behavioural theory and its key aspects would be discussed, followed by highlighting the crimes of Mark. Once this is done, it would be highlighted how the factors and situations in which Mark was, made him such a big criminal and pushed him towards the life of crime. And for this purpose, the theory given by John B. Watson would used to show that this theory gives the best insights on the psychology of a criminal.
John B. Watson, an American psychologist, is deemed as the originator of the behaviourism. As her him, psychology is not related with mind or human consciousness. It is instead concerned with the behaviour, which allowed humans to be studied like apes and rats (Vito & Maahs, 2015). He was a critic of mentalism and subjectivity of psychology an advocated behaviourism as the base for objective study of behaviour. The key theme in his theory was that the individuals learn their behaviours over their life. Thus, the individuals are born neutral and it is the experiences which the individuals face, which make them what they are, and for the present context, criminals (Winfree, & Abadinsky, 2016). This viewpoint has been purported by Albert Bandura, as per whom the people change and alter their behaviour on the basis of the reactions which such behaviour has over the other people. To put it more simply with an example, behaviour is supported by rewards and diminishes with negative reaction. Thus, under this theory, crimes are the learned response of an individual towards their situations of life. This theory provides that people do not have an ability to act in a violent manner by birth. So, a child learns violence by observing others (Hagan, 2010).
The three key sources of aggressive acts include family interactions, environmental experiences and mass media (Miller, 2009). Watson’s behaviourism rejected the concept of internal mental state of an individual and their unconscious as the same could not be observed and was subject to be interpreted by the psychologists. An example of this can be seen in Frued’s work where he asked his patients to tell about their dream and he would then interpret such dreams, along with analysing what these dreams indicated in the life of the person. He found the emphasis of subjective interpretation and introspection as being very unhelpful and unscientific for understanding behaviour. Watson (1958) applied this theory primarily in child developed and stated that the environment faced by children shaped their behaviour over their natural temperament or genetic makeup.
Mark Brandon “Chopper” read was not only a convicted criminal and a gang member of the nation, but was also an author. Mark had spent the initial five years of his life in a children’s home and by the age of 14, he had been made the ward of state. He earned a reputation of being hard man by ripping off the Melbourne based drug dealers and later on making his living by torturing and kidnapping the members from criminal underworld. Between the ages of 20 and 38, he was only spent thirteen months out of prison (Flower & Buttler, 2013). His criminal portfolio included arson, assault, attempted murder, impersonalising a police officer, armed robbery, and kidnapping. In his attempts at kidnapping a County Court judge at gunpoint, he was sentenced to jail of thirteen years. In his attempts to get out of the H division of Pentridge Prison, he cut off a fellow prisoner’s ear back in late 1970s. He got his tag Chopper from the cartoon character on the show Yakky Doodle. Mark had to lose several feet of intestines after he was stabbed by his fellow inmates, along with his long time friends Ned Clonan and Jimmy Loughnan. He confessed in his book that he was involved in attempted murder of 11 people and killing of 19 people; though, he later on degraded this to 4 or 7 (BBC News, 2013).
His talents were not only restricted to criminal activities, but also in being an author for Chopper books and even the ‘kids’ book for adults. He also recorded a hip hop album, and later on his tale got Hollywood adaption in 2000. While he was in prison, he got sick with Hepatitis C (Shand, 2014). He required a liver transplant in 2009 but he did not accept the one he had been offered. In rejecting the available liver, he stated that it was not fair for him to be given the liver as he was a 55 years old man and he did not want to put his name before a ten year old kid. In September 20113, after being admitted to the hospital, he was transferred to palliative care and died on October 09th of the very same year. Mark started his criminal life journey as an accomplished street fighter and by robbing drug dealers. He later on moved to more heinous activities which included use of bolt cutter to remove toes of his victims and blowtorch. Even I the prison he launched a prison war. He was amongst the most notorious criminals in Australia who later on became a novelist (Kemble, 2013).
Till now an understanding has been gained on what exactly behaviourism is and who exactly Mark was. Now, there is a need to use the theory to analyse the case of Mark. As per Watson, it is the factors which a person face which shapes their behaviour and in the individuals becoming what they are. This has been very true for Mark and this can be shown from his early life. He was born to a mother who was devout Seventh day Adventist and a father who was former army and Korean War veteran father (Rule, 2016). He had been placed in children’s home for the initial five years of his life. He grew up in the suburbs in Melbourne of Preston, Fitzroy, Collingwood and Thomastown. He had been bullied at the school and by 15 years of age, he was on the majority of losing side of the hundreds of fights. He was also beaten up quite often in his childhood by his father. While he had been playing Russian roulette, he asked a news reporter to play with him but she declined it. This made him so angry that he took a gun and pulled the trigger at her. Thankfully the gun was empty (Brack, 2013). Mark had also been molested as a child and even placed in different mental institutions as a teenager where was subjected to electroshock therapy (Cartwright, 2013).
Instead of deeming it as a restatement of the circumstances faced by Mark, the previous paragraph shows the different factors which he faced. These are the very initial factors which pushed him towards the line of criminal activity. He was not born a criminal, he was actually born in a good family where one side was religious based, which should have made him more humble and a god fearing person, and the other side was military based, which should have made him a disciplined and rule compliant. However, this was not the case; he was none of the things which he should have been by birth, which proves that behavioural theory is correct. A person is not born a criminal and the factors faced by them make them who they are (Tolman, 2012).
Child abuse and neglect are some of the prominent factors in violence, substance use and other criminal behaviour amongst in adulthood (Minh et al. 2013). Mark was molested and beaten up as a child and also had been bullied which can be deemed as the reason for him being indulged in criminal activities. Apart from this, Mark could never feel belonged to a place which could be called his home, which in turn resulted in him being distant, as he had no place which could tie him down. Again, such displaced and abusive childhood, pushed him towards criminal activities, where he could easily channel his anger on his father, mother or of any other factor. The path of crime not only allowed him to satiate his anger but also gave him a purpose, which he could never find in his family or his immediate surroundings at the child care homes he was placed him.
The incident which took place with the news reporter helps in gaining an understanding on his psychology. He had been ignored by his parents where he was abused by his father and his mother did nothing to stop it. He wanted their love and affection, particularly of the mother (Andrews & Bonta, 2010). But when the new reporter declined his request to play with him, the anger of his childhood, particularly towards his mother, came back, and he resorted to the only channel he knew which helped him, and that was the path of criminal activities. This is why he pulled the trigger. Being a child, he was not aware of the difference between a loaded and unloaded gun, which led to him fire an empty gun. He had no plans of hurting the reporter from the start; it was the situation which was present at that time which led Mark to behave in the manner in which he did.
It was not his nature which led Mark on the path of criminal activities but his nurture. It was the situations which made him pathological. This was not only true for the situations which he faced during his childhood but also across his life. He became a part of gang and ultimately its leader to gain the power which he lacked in his early years. He took actions against the criminal underworld which shows his inclination towards being the best and having the control over everything. He was gruesome due to the hard past he faced and his behaviour thus became brutal. His hardships returned later on in his life where the members of his own gang attacked on him, which showed that the reason behind him being indulged in a constant criminal life was the numerous factors which dominated his life. Be it the lack of love from parents, no place to call home, or the betrayed and back stabbed by his friends, his anger and contempt continued, which kept him on this path. The reason for him indulging in prison war or even cutting ear of his prison mate, could also be seen as a manner of protecting himself. He had been beaten in childhood, on the streets and even in prison. The need to survive and the need to keep him safe could also be seen as a reason for engaging in such acts. The factors surrounding him were so horrendous that he had to do what was needed for him to survive. As is the case with the majority of criminals, he was manipulative and lying egotist. But unlike the majority of criminals, he was not born a criminal or raised to be one; also, he was funny and intelligent (Rule, 2013).
The behavioural theory not only highlights the negative aspects of life of Mark but also about his transformations. Criminals are often adapted on screen and even written about, but seldom do they become authors. The factors faced by Mark in the later parts of life must have changed in such a manner which changed his method of expressing himself and in bringing out his emotions. Even though there is no evidence to this, which does make this argument weak, but one cannot deny that there had been some factor which shifted a criminal to an author. His work sold 300,000 copies which made him the bestselling true crime author of Australia. Boasting about his activities shows the need of gaining respect and attention from people, which the actions which he took across his life depicted. He was a violent psychopath who wrote books like how to shoot friends and influence people, which shows his psychological traits as wanting acceptance from people and influencing others to control their lives. The loss of control at different stages in his life made him what he was (The Telegraph, 2013).
The application of the behavioural theory can also be weakened by the fact that the majority of targets of Mark were criminal syndicates or those from criminal field, which shows that psychodynamic theory would have been more appropriate here, as his childhood background, i.e., the rule following quality from his father’s background applied on him. Mark attacking criminals could be deemed as his manner of dealing with criminals and a step in eradicating them. Though, this shortfall, in itself is not that strong, as Mark was no a self-righteous person. He attacked criminals but of other gang-members to gain control, which is inclined with the behavioural theory, where the factors surrounding him required for him to be in control, to keep him from being made a victim.
Thus, from the discussion carried on in the previous segment, it becomes clear that behavioural theory is an important theory which helps in gaining an understanding on the psychology of criminals. This theory provides that the factors which are faced by the individual are what shape their behaviour. So, a person who is faced with loved and appreciation across their life would become a good person. This theory allows for the individuals and their behaviours to be understood and even governed like lab trained rats. The notorious criminal of Australia, Mark Read and his actions could be easily explained through this theory. Even though some of the points rose in the discussion highlighted the possibility of this theory not being the right one for analysing the actions undertaken by Mark, but the same cannot be denied out-rightly. Having a hard childhood, youth and even in his adulthood in terms of being betrayed by his own gang members, he had to adopt the path of crime to keep himself save, and to attain a dominant position, where instead of being a victim, he made others his victim. Thus, behavioural theory was the best one in context of analysing the case of ‘Chopper’ as it highlighted the different factors which shaped him.
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