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BIOSOCIAL APPROACHES

I.Introduction
a. Biosocial scientists are aware that we cannot explain behavior genetically,
evolutionarily, neurologically, or hormonally without understanding the
complementary influence of the environment
II.

Behavior Genetics
a. Behavior genetics: A branch of genetics that studies the relative contributions of
heredity and environment to behavioral and personality characteristics
b. Human behavioral and personality characteristics are observable and measurable
components of a persons phenotype, which is the detectable expression of a
persons genotype interacting with his or her environment

III.

What are Genes?


a. Genes: Strands of DNA that code proteins
b. Genes produce tendencies or dispositions to respond to the environments in one
way rather than in another

IV.

How do Behavior Geneticists do Research on Criminal Behavior?


a. Behavior genetics sample pairs of individuals such as twins, adoptee/biological
sibling pairs, child/parent pairs, and so forth
b. Heritability: A number ranging between 0 and 1 indicating the extent to which
variance in a trait in a population, not in an individual, is due to genetic factors
c. All cognitive, behavioral, and personality traits are heritable to some degree

d. High heritability tells us that the present environment at the present time accounts
for very little variance in the trait, it does not tell what other environments may
affect variance in the trait
V.

The Twin Method


a. If genes are an important source of variation in a trait, then it is logical that
individuals who are more genetically similar should be more alike on that trait
than individuals who are less genetically similar
b. Twin methods help to examine the effects of environments that people share and
those they do not

VI.

The Adoption Method


a. The adoption method allows us to hold genes constant to investigate the effect of
environments, and to hold environments constant to observe the effect of the
genes

VII.

Gene/Environment Interaction and Correlation

a. Gene/Environment (G/E) interaction and G/E correlation describe peoples active


transactions with their environment
b. The concept of the G/E interaction involves the notion that people are differently
sensitive to identical environmental influences and will thus respond to them in
different ways to them
c. G/E correlation simply means that genotypes and the environments they find
themselves in are related
d. There are three types of G/E correlation:

i. Passive G/E correlation refers to the association between genotypes and their
environments in childrens earliest years
ii. Reactive G/E correlation refers to the way parents, siblings, teachers, peers,
and others react to the individual on the basis of his or her evocative behavior
iii. Active G/E correlation refers to the active seeking environments compatible
with our genetic dispositions
VIII.

Behavior Genetics and Criminal Behavior

a. Studies using genetically sensitive methods almost invariably show some genetic
influence on antisocial behavior
b. What behavior genetics does for us is to make more sense of traditional
criminological theories by pointing out the genetic underpinnings of some of their
favored causal variables and providing us with fresh ways to understand and
interpret their findings
c. Adoption studies can help us to determine if children at genetic risk for antisocial
behavior pattern experience more environmental risks for it than children not at
genetic risk
IX.

The Modest Heritability of Criminality


a. Genetic influences on antisocial behavior are rather weak
b. The majority of delinquents probably have little if any genetic vulnerability to
criminal behavior while a small minority may have considerable vulnerability
c. Genetic affects on antisocial behavior appear most likely to be found among
chronic offenders who begin on offending prior to puberty and who continue to
do so across the life course

X.

Evolutionary Psychology
a. Evolutionary psychology is a way of thinking about human behavior using an
evolutionary theoretical framework
b. Evolutionary psychology informs us how the genes of interest came to be present
in our species in the first place
c. Whereas behavior genetics focuses on what makes us different, evolutionary
psychology focuses on what makes us all the same

XI.

Evolution by Natural Selection


a. Natural selection selects the favorable variants and preserves them in later
generations
b. Natural selection is evolutions mover and shaker because it continuously adjusts
populations to their environments; we call these adjustments adaptations

XII.

Thinking Evolutionarily: Direct vs. Indirect Motivation and the Naturalist Fallacy

a. Evolutionary logic does not dictate that evolved adaptive behaviors are directly
and consciously motivated by concerns of reproductive success
b. Adaptations move us to seek the immediate means of achieving specific goals, not
ultimate evolutionary ends
c. Naturalistic fallacy: The fallacy of confusing is with ought
d. Nature simply is, what ought to be is a moral judgment
XIII.

The Evolution of Criminal Behavior: Crime is Normal

a. Evolutionary logic tells us that if criminal behavior is normal, it must have


conferred some evolutionary advantage on our distant ancestors

b. It is important to realize it is the traits underlying criminal behavior not the


specific acts that are the alleged adaptations
c. Criminal behavior is a way to acquire valued resources by exploiting and
deceiving others
d. Although we all have the potential to exploit and deceive others, we are a highly
social and cooperative species
XIV.

Cooperation Creates Niches for Cheats

a. Cheats: Individuals in a population of cooperators who gain resources from


others by signaling their cooperation but then failing to follow through
b. Criminal behavior may be viewed as an extreme form of defaulting on the rules of
cooperation or reciprocity
c. The Prisoners Dilemma: Although the payoff for cheating is high when the other
actor does not cheat, if both cheat they are both worse off than if they cooperate
d. Cheating is only rational in circumstances of limited interaction and
communication
XV.

The Evolution of Criminal Traits

a. There are a number of evolutionary theories of crime, all of which focus on


sexuality as the prime mover of human behavior
b. There are two strategies that members of any animal species can follow to
maximize reproductive success:
i. Parenting effort: That proportion of the total reproductive effort invested in
rearing offspring
ii. Mating effort: That proportion allotted to acquiring sexual partners

c. Humans invest more in parenting effort than any other species


d. The proximate motivation for any male seeking sex is sexual pleasure, with more
offspring being a natural consequence
e. The reproductive success among our ancestral females rested primarily on their
ability to secure mates to assist them in raising offspring in exchange for
exclusive sexual access, and thus human females evolved a much more
discriminating attitude about sexual behavior
f. Because female reproductive success hinges more on parenting effort than mating
effort, females have evolved higher levels of the traits that facilitate it and lower
level traits unfavorable to it than males
XVI. The Neurosciences
a. Whether the source of our behavior comes from within us or from out
environment it is necessarily funneled through transmitted nerve impulses in the
brain
XVII. Some Basic Concepts and Terminology
a. The limbic system is concerned with emotion
b. Surrounding the limbic system and forming the bulk of the human brain is the
neomammalian system (the cerebrum)
c. The outer layer of the cerebrum is the cerebral cortex
d. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) occupies approximately one-third of the cerebrum
and has extensive connections with other cortical regions, as well as with the
deeper structures in the limbic system

e. Connecting all the brain structures are hundreds of billions of nerve cells called
neurons
f. Sending and receiving messages is accomplished in microscopic fluid-filled gaps
between axons and dendrites called synapses
g. The brain cell pass the information along the axon electrically until it reaches the
synaptic knob at the end of a dendrite, at which time it is translated into chemistry
as tiny vesicles burst open and spill out one ore more of a variety of chemicals
called neurotransmitters cross the synaptic gap to make contact with
postsynaptic receptor sites where the message is translated back into an electrical
one for further transportation or inhibition
h. The most important neurotransmitters for criminologists to understand are
dopamine, serotonin, and norepinepherine
XVIII. Softwiring the Brain
a. About 50-60% of our genes are involved in brain development specifying its
architecture
b. Neuroscientists identify two brain developmental processes that physically
capture environmental events in a persons lifetime:
i. Experience-expected: Hard wired and reflect the evolutionary history of the
species
ii. Experience-dependent: Reflect each persons unique developmental history
c. Much of the variability in the brain wiring patterns of different individuals
depends on the kinds of physical, social, and cultural environments they will
encounter

d. The process of wiring the brain is known as synaptogenesis


e. The brain creates and eliminates synapses throughout life, a process termed
neural Darwinism
XIX. Bonding, Attachment, and the Brain
a. Humans have powerful neurological and hormonal structures that demand the
formation of affectionate bonds, and there are may negative consequences
associated with the failure to form them
b. A species giving birth to highly dependent young must evolve mechanisms of
love and nurture
XX.

Abuse, Neglect, and the Developing Brain

a. The lack of nurturing and attachment during early development may result in a
brain that will adversely affect the childs ability to interact with its world
b. A brain organized by negative events is ripe for anti-social behavior
XXI. The Evolutionary Neuroandrogenic Theory (ENA)
a. ENA theory asserts that evolutionary, neurological, and hormonal factors, as
social environment factors, are all involved in crime causation
b. Males have been naturally selected for engaging in resource procurement and
status-striving
c. Criminality is part of a continuum of activities involving status-striving in which
males are the main offenders
XXII. Reward Dominance Theory and Criminal Behavior
a. Reward dominance theory: A neurological theory based on the proposition that
behavior is regulated by two opposing mechanisms:

i. Behavioral activating system (BAS): Associated chemically with the


neurotransmitter dopamine, and anatomically with pleasure areas in the limbic
system
ii. Behavioral inhibition system (BIS): Associated with serotonin, and with
limbic system structures such as the hippocampus that feed the prefrontal
cortex
b. The BAS is sensitive to reward signals; the BIS is sensitive to threats of
punishment
c. BIS/BAS theory asserts that criminals have dominant BAS
d. A third system of behavior control is the fight/flight system (FFS): Refers to
ANS mechanisms that mobilize the body for vigorous action in response to threats
by pumping out epinephrine
XXIII. Prefrontal Dysfunction (PFD) Theory and Criminal Behavior
a. The PFC is responsible for attributes such as making moral judgments, planning
for the future, analyzing, synthesizing, and modulating emotions
b. If these functions are damaged via the PFC, it can result in anti-social behavior
XXIV. Evaluation of Biosocial Perspective
a. Biosocial theories have been tarred with labels such as racist, sexist, and classicist
b. The strength of biosocial approaches lies in their ability to incorporated biological
factors into their theories and to physically measure many of them via various
chemical, electrophysiological, and neuroimaging methods
XXV. Policy and Prevention: Implications of Biosocial Theories

a. Biosocial criminologists advocate a wide variety of nurturant strategies such as


pre- and post-natal care, monitoring infants and young children through the early
developmental years, paid maternity leave, and nutritional programs
b. They look at prevention rather than cures, and favor indeterminate sentencing
c. Another program is to provide challenging and risky legal alternatives to the
excitement of anti-social behavior
Key Terms
Adaptations
Behavioral activating system
Behavioral inhibition system
Behavior genetics
Cheats
Evolutionary psychology
Experience-dependent brain
development
Experience-expected brain development
Fight/flight system
Gene/environment interaction
Gene/environment correlation
Genes
Genotype
Heritability
Mating effort
Natural selection
Naturalistic fallacy
Neural Darwinism
Neurons
Neurotransmitters
Parenting effort
Phenotype
Prefrontal cortex
Reward dominance theory
Synapse
Synaptogenesis