Theoretical Explanation of Criminal Behaviour
Criminal behaviour is one of the discourses that have been studied widely by different scholars. Perhaps the increase in the rate of crime is one of the precipitating factors towards this study. In an endeavour to study and understand criminal behaviour, there are some important aspects worth considering. For instance, it is important to understand who are regarded to as criminals, the reasons why they commit crimes, what they do as well as what they think. The definition of criminal behaviour is ambiguous in the sense that one act may be classified as a crime in one environment but not in another. Nonetheless, criminal behaviour is seen as an act(s) prohibited by law, violation of religious or moral codes, violation of societal norms, and acts that serious to serious mental, physical or psychological stress to the victim. Scholars have attempted to provide both biological and psychological explanations of criminal behaviour. The aim of this paper, therefore, is to compare and contrast the psychological positivism theory (behavioural theory) and biological or genetic positivism (Lombroso's theory) in an attempt to explain the scope of criminal behaviour.
An Overview of Biology and Psychology Relationship with Criminality
The earlier and the latest criminology studies reveal that there in an intrinsic relationship between criminal behaviour and human biology. Scientists, therefore, argue that the tendency to be aggressive or violent in some situations is genetically inherited (Portnoy, Chen, and Raine, 2013: 294). Therefore, although criminals are not naturally born as criminals Delisi (2016: 25) argue that the act of violence which results in the commitment of crime is present in some people during birth, mainly because of the genes inherited.
The psychological explanations of criminal behaviour, on the other hand, show that criminals are predisposed to criminal behaviour due to particular psychological problems. Psychologist (Raine, 2013: 13), in his explanation of criminal behaviour uses four distinct approaches. Firstly, he attributes criminal behaviour to incomplete psychological development or failure in psychological development. In this view, Raine cites factors such as individual's inner conflict, poor childhood attachment to parents, weak conscience or lack of moral development. Secondly is the focus on the causes of aggression such as exposure to aggressive behaviour or negative influence by others. The third approach involves the study of a person's personality characteristics. Raine thus argues that criminals have defining characteristics such as irresponsibility, impulsive and intolerance. The fourth explanation is attributed to psychopathy which is a mental disorder.
In general, the investigators examine some of the personality characteristics in criminals. Among these characteristics, there is the personality disorder, cognitive processing and the level of intelligence (Taylor, Fritsch and Liederbach, 2014: 109). The investigations depict that there is a relationship between psychology, crime, and mental illnesses. Hence, egoism, incorrigibility, impulsiveness, and temperament are seen as some of the psychological states that may result in criminal behaviours in some individuals (Okada, 2015: 44).
Comparing Biological Positivism (Lombroso's theory) and Psychological Positivism (Behavioural Theory) in relation to Criminal Behaviour
The behavioural theory stresses that human behaviour is primarily developed through learning experiences. The centrality of the behavioural theory, therefore, is the underpinned notion that people tend to alter their behaviours depending on the reactions that these behaviours bring forth in other people. Principally, the behaviourists view criminal acts as emanating from the life situations that people experience. Bandura one of the social learning theorists contends that acts of aggression and violence result from behavioural modelling. In other words, the external environment plays a role in influencing criminal acts. The notion of the role of the environment in influencing people's behaviour is thus in agreement with the latest book entitled Crime, Its Causes, and Remedies. The book is the third volume of Lombroso's Criminal Man.
In this theory, Lombroso, other than contending that criminal behaviour is inborn in criminals he cites other predisposing factors to criminal behaviour. In other words, although he maintains that criminals are born with intrinsic ability to commit criminal behaviours, other factors are also responsible for fuelling the criminals' vulnerability (Akers, 2013: 37). It is such a notion that depicts the comparing characteristic of the biological positivism and psychological positivism explanations of criminal behaviour. In the new volume, Lombroso lists some of the factors that lead to criminal behaviour including sex, age, geographical conditions, civilization, political conditions, religion, alcoholism, influence of race, civil status, prisons, education, economic conditions, meteorological and climate influences, and population density (Akers, 2013: 39).
Secondly, a large number of behaviourists see cognitions as playing central role in the formation and maintenance of criminal behaviour. Moreover, both covert and overt cognitions are referred to as the major causes of maladaptive behaviour. Similarly, while Lombroso's theory is purely biological, in his later years, Lombroso incorporates both psychological and social factors which he argues that they produce crime. His sentiments depict his perception about the characteristic of a criminal not only as an organic anomaly but also as atavistic and pathological. He argues that the social causes of crime are stimuli that contribute both psychical and organic abnormalities in the individual.
Contrasting Biological Positivism (Lombroso's theory) and Psychological Positivism (Behavioural Theory) in Relation to Criminal Behaviour
Lombroso's theory differs significantly from the behavioural theory when it comes to the explanations of criminal behaviour. One of the major variances between Lombroso's theory and behavioural theory is that the former stresses that the propensity to commit crimes is inborn (Beaver and Schwartz, 2014: 1908) while the latter attributes criminal behaviour to social, environmental influences. Lombroso applied scientific study to crime and criminals. One of Lombroso's major findings was that criminal behaviour was inherited hence it was inborn in some criminals (Carrier and Walby, 2014:1). Similarly, he also contended that criminals were identifiable through physical characteristics. For instance, Lombroso in his study maintained that thieves are identifiable through physical characteristics such as small wandering eyes, facial expression, and manual agility. Serial murderers can be identified through bloodshot eyes, glassy and cold stares, and a big nose that resemble that of a hawk. He also found out that rapists have jug-like ears. He thus concluded that majority of the criminals tend to have one or more of such features as prominent superciliary jaws, palms with solitary lines, insensitivity to pain, enormous jaws, tattoos, high cheekbones, desire for orgies, idleness, extremely large orbits, and desire to kill and mutilate the body (Carrier and Walby, 2014:1).
On the contrary, the behavioural theory posits that all human behaviours are learned through interacting with the social environment (Eck and Weisburd, 2015: 3). Essentially, the theory stands in high contrast with the concept of inborn criminal. In other words, this theory holds that people are not born with the propensity to become violent or commit crimes. The underpinning of the theory is that people accustom to think and express violence due to their day-to-day experience or encounters (Eck and Weisburd, 2015: 4). The proponents of the behavioural theory say that the observation of rewarding of violent behaviour and the glorification of violence are primary predisposing factors to committing criminal behaviour. It is for this reason that people who live in violent neighbourhoods tend to exhibit aggressive behaviour.
Another striking difference brought forth by Lombroso is the finding that there is a difference between the male criminals and female criminals. However, the behavioural theory is limited to the general causes of criminal behaviour in criminals. Thus, Lombroso contends that female criminals are more callous compared to their male counterparts (Burgess, 2014: 165). He also found characteristics such as shortness and wrinkles, smaller skulls than those of non-criminal women, lust and immodesty, baldness, prominent lower jaws, and black hair (Smart, 2013: 27-28).
While Lombroso stresses on the inheritable causes of criminal behaviour and the anatomical features of criminals in both men and women (Chirchiglia et al.: 294), the proponents of behavioural theory address four distinct factors that lead to criminal behaviour. One of the outlined factors is the aggressive learned skills which are mainly learned through observing others. Secondly is a stressful experience or stimuli such as assault or threat. These two arouse aggression and consequential involvement in criminal behaviour. Thirdly, the proponents argue that people are likely to commit crimes in a system or a social context that is tolerant to violence. Finally, criminal behaviour aggravates due to the belief that violence or aggressions are rewarded. For instance, some people believe that expression of violence or aggression is a way of earning praise from others, enhancing self-esteem, reducing or avoiding frustration or even proving material needs.
In addition, behavioural theory puts into perspective factors such as egoism, incorrigibility, impulsiveness, and temperament as leading to criminality (Okada, 2015: 36). These factors, however, are triggered by the social environment thereby leading one to commit the crime(s). Conversely, in an attempt to further his Inborn Criminal theory, Lombroso developed another theory where he classified criminals into three categories (Abbaszadeh, 2016; 1206). He again disregards the significance of the social, environmental factors in which individuals find themselves. One of three categories is the group of people who are born as criminals. The second category refers to the abnormal criminals such as alcoholics, paralytics, demented persons, idiots, and paranoids among others. The third category comprises of the occasional criminals (pseudo criminals, habitual criminals, and criminaloids). For this reason, Lombroso's theory creates a large divergence with the behavioural theory that rules out the likelihood of inborn criminal.
How Behavioural Theory is a Better Approach in Explaining Criminal Behaviour
When Lombroso argues that tendency to commit a crime is inborn and that there is a relationship between physical characteristics and propensity to commit a crime is undermining the real causes of criminal behaviour. Criminal behaviour occurs as a result of learning process which is primarily influenced by the social environment. What Lombroso does is shifting from the analysis of criminal behaviour as a social phenomenon to individual phenomenon (Akers, 2011: 79). As a matter of fact, the biological reasons given by Lombroso cannot adequately account for the causes of criminal behaviour hence the need to incorporate the behavioural causes of criminal behaviour. Factors such as social illness, emotional reactions, and geographical conditions also form a rigid foundation on which crimes result.
Lombroso has over-emphasized on the role that an individual's physical characteristics can have in committing a criminal behaviour (Chirchiglia et al.: 294) A person's characteristics (egoism, incorrigibility, impulsiveness, and temperament) which may influence criminality may however not lead to crime unless aroused by the social, environmental factors. In other words, when egoism, incorrigibility, impulsiveness, and temperament are confronted by the environmental factors such as lust, frustrations, temptations, and anger are likely to result in criminal behaviour.
Although Lombroso maintains that criminal behaviour is inborn and not made, Okada (2015: 35) argues that it is not necessarily that those individuals who exhibit these features (as explained by Lombroso) must engage in criminal behaviour. For instance, having an asymmetrical face and thick dark hair may not predispose one to commit crime. However, a person's inherent characteristics such as impatience and irritability can result in criminal behaviour if not adequately controlled. In this view, therefore, Lombroso's theory may not adequately explain why people engage in criminal behaviour.
Behavioural theory supports the notion that the causation of criminal behaviour is learned and anybody can become a criminal if exposed to the environment that supports aggression and violence. On the other hand, Lombroso's broad generalization on genetics, physicality, and body type are discriminative against some members of the community who may possess one or more of the features or characteristics he identified (Rudo-Hutt et al.2014: 22). In fact, according to Rudo-Hutt et al. (2014: 23), Lombroso's theory was primarily used to enforce the controversial law that resulted in racial profiling and confinement of the Japanese Americans during the World War II.
In conclusion, criminal behaviour has been explained by various theorists. Both biological and psychological theories provide substantial information about the development and persistence of criminal behaviour. In furthering the understanding, this paper has explained how both psychology and biology approach the whole issue of criminal behaviour. In so doing, Lombroso's theory of inborn crime and the behavioural theory have shown how criminal behaviour occurs in individuals. Lombroso in his view saw criminal behaviour as resulting from the biological and physical characteristics possessed by a person. He, therefore, summarized that criminals are born and not made. Behavioural theory, on the other hand, stands in contrast with the behavioural theory by asserting that criminals are made and not born. The theory holds that people's propensities to commit crimes are influenced by the social environmental factors.
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