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From very early, the oxygen of the criminals life is to seek excitement by doing the forbidden (S. Samenow).

Critically consider Samenows quotation by outlining how useful criminal personality theories are in the explanation of criminal behaviour.

Dionne Angela Donnelly Module: PSYC201: Personality and Social Psychology

Abstract Theories of criminal personality aim to explain behavioural variability within and across situations. Cognitive theory states faulty thinking leads to the pursuit of the wrong kind of excitement. Eysencks PEN theory states that personality has a genetic basis and consists of three factors, extroversion (E), psychoticism (P) and neuroticism (N). Those who score highest on EPN are most likely to become criminals. Psychobiological theories by Lombroso (1911) and Sheldon (1940) postulate criminality manifests itself in a criminals physical attributes. More recently, the impact of the XYY gene and neurochemistry on criminality have been studied. Criminal behaviour is also affected by disrupted or dysfunctional family relationships. Finally, research has investigated whether psychopaths are at an increased risk of criminality. In order to aid understanding of criminal personality these distinct theories were integrated, creating a more useful and comprehensive supertheory.

A criminal, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary (1989), is a person guilty or convicted of a crime. This is an extremely broad definition covering a vast spectrum of age ranges and potential offences, e.g. from graffiti by teenagers to tax evasion by affluent older men, all unlikely to have been motivated by the same factors (Ainsworth, 2000). Therefore, it is difficult to comprehend how theories of criminal personality can be useful in explaining such a wide range of potential actions. However, these theories by definition seek only to account for individuals' behavioural variability within and across situations (Wagstaff, 2007) and to investigate individual differences which cannot be explained by sociological/criminological theories (Blackburn, 1993). Samenows research is based on the premise that all contemporary 1

biological/sociological/psychological theories were useless for explaining criminality (Reid, 2003). However, Samenow's generalisation that all criminals seek excitement by doing the forbidden could be seen to apply to some, but definitely not all instances of crime. Despite this they are still deemed useful for explaining criminal behaviour. In order to do this more comprehensively, such theories can be integrated into a super-theory of criminal personality.

Criminality as a result of thinking errors Yochelson and Samenow (1976) found 52 thinking errors that differentiate criminals from noncriminals, which manifest in the way criminals experience their world and process information before taking action (Reid, 2003). These include: entitlement (the world exists for their benefit); superoptimism (they will not be caught); discontinuity/ fragmentation (inability to uphold commitments); and a cutoff which, when faced with stressful/emotional situations, stops the anxieties and fears which usually prevent people committing crime (Walters, 1990, see also Yochelson & Samenow, 1976). Samenow (1978) stated that these thinking styles mean criminals from different socioeconomic backgrounds all have a similar cognitive structure. Samenows quotation above incites the error of irresponsible decision making, as the criminal chooses to commit illegal acts for excitement rather than participate in exciting but legal activities. However, there are a number of methodological flaws. Yochelson and Samenow (1976) did not use a control group to compare these patterns to and the sample consisted mainly of black males, meaning that the theory is not generalisable (Reid, 2003). Despite this, Walters (1990) supported their theory and postulated that thinking styles become ingrained in the criminals consciousness, thus they find unrestrained hedonism and rulelessness more rewarding than self-discipline and social conformity. Zuckerman (1994, cited in Roberti, 2004) referred to this as sensation seeking, a trait causing individuals to take risks in order to seek varied, new and intense 2

experiences. Males are significantly more likely to be sensation seekers (Roberti, 2004), which could help explain why there are more male offenders than females. This could be why criminals escalate from petty antisocial behaviour to more serious crimes; the criminal may become addicted to crime (Hodge et al. 1997, cited in Ainsworth, 2000), possibly due to tolerance or desensitisation causing them to seek further stimulation. An explanation for this could be cortical under-arousal, linked to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and the continuous search for stimulation (Biederman & Spencer, 1999, see also, Loo et al., 2009; Rowe, Robinson & Gordon, 2004). The estimated prevalence of ADHD in incarcerated criminals is 25 per cent (Eme, 2009; Gordon & Malmsjo-Moore, 2005). Yochelson and Samenows (1976) theory can be criticised for not stating where the thinking patterns originate, for example if they have a biological basis. However, biological bases of criminal personality are an integral aspect of Eysencks PEN theory.

Eysencks personality types Eysenck (1996) viewed personality as a mediator between genetic/environmental forces and criminal behaviour. Eysencks theory has three premises. Firstly, it provides a descriptive model of personality, related to three trait dimensions: Psychoticism (P), Extroversion (E) and Neuroticism (N) (Blackburn, 1993). Research suggests that those who score highly on EPN are more likely to be involved in crime (Ainsworth, 2000, see also Eysenck & Eysenck, 1970; Pakes & Winstone, 2007). However, Feldman (1993, cited in Ainsworth, 2000) stated that they may be more prone to exaggerate their delinquency. Furthermore, there may be differences in the perpetrators of different crimes, Gudjonsson and Sigurdsson (2000) found that sex offenders were more introverted than violent offenders. Secondly, there are innate biological differences in our cortical and autonomic nervous systems (ANS) affecting the way we interact with the 3

environment. Similar to sensation-seeking, extroverts are thought to be cortically under-aroused (Ainsworth, 2000) and need more stimulation to maintain hedonic tone (Blackburn, 1993). Neurotics have a labile ANS which reacts strongly to negative stimuli, and are not easily conditioned. People who are mix of high EN are not easily controlled and do not learn from their mistakes, making them more prone to criminality (Ainsworth, 2000). P is highly related to psychopathy, the characteristics of which will be discussed later. Thirdly, restraints on our naturally hedonistic personality are acquired through socialisation, achieved via classical conditioning. Individuals learn to have a conscience via a conditioned anxiety response (Ainsworth, 2000; Blackburn, 1993). Therefore, as all behaviour (including criminal) is phenotypic, to improve the usefulness of criminal personality an integrated theory is needed but impossible to test (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1970).

Criminals have a certain look about them... Eysenck was not the first to consider criminality having a biological basis. Lombroso (1911) studied criminals skulls, and found them to have heavy jaws, flat or crooked noses and asymmetrical skulls (see also, Ainsworth, 2000). He also argued that born criminals represented one third of the criminal population and different physiologies indicated different crimes, e.g. sex offenders have glinting eyes and thick lips, murderers have glassy eyes and thin lips. This theory, like Eysencks, was phenotypic, with nature providing the raw materials and society providing potential criminal circumstances (Yochelson & Samenow, 1976). The idea of a link existing between physical attributes and crime was expanded upon by Sheldon (1940). He noted three body types and coinciding temperaments: Rafter (2007) states that endomorphs (soft, round people) are viscerotonic relaxed and sociable; mesomorphs (muscular and compact) are somatotonic energetic and aggressive; and ectomorphs (fragile and intelligent) are cerebrotonic 4

introverted. Sheldon and Glueck (1956, cited in Wagstaff, 2007) found mesomorphy in 60 per cent of delinquents, but only 30 per cent of non-delinquents. Lindzey (1973, cited in Yochelson & Samenow, 1976) postulated that the relationship between mesomorphy and crime is not causal, but there is a strong and consistent connection between the two. Attempts have been made to use body mass index (BMI) instead of the intrusive measures used by Sheldon (1940). Madden, Walker and Miller (2008) found a curvilinear relationship between BMI and criminality, similar to that found for endomorphy-mesomorphy-ectomorphy. However, Genovese (2009) argued BMI is an inadequate measure as it was only able to correctly classify 55 per cent of his sample. Madden, Walker and Miller (2009) responded that the original measure was extremely subjective and although BMI is not flawless it is objective and unobtrusive.

Genetic criminality? Another biological theory of criminality stated that males with an extra Y chromosome were more likely to be violent criminals (the supermale or XYY syndrome, Ainsworth, 2000; Briken, Habermann, Berner & Hill, 2006; OBrien, 2000) but this has since been discredited (Wood, 2003). Nevertheless, recent research has investigated the link between criminality and several hormones. Deficiencies in levels of serotonin, noradrenergic metabolite MHPG, and vasopressin have all been linked to increased likelihood of committing violent crime (LeMarquand, Hoaken, Benkelfat & OPihl, 2008). However, this area of research is still in the relatively early stages and it is unknown whether the results are reliable. Also, psychobiological research is only useful in that suggests a predisposition towards criminality, unlike other theories, e.g. cognitive, it cannot tell us why some people choose to commit crime and others do not.

Familial effects on the criminal Psychoanalytic theory postulates that people turn to crime through Oedipal guilt and seek punishment to assuage this guilt (Glover, 1960, cited in Yochelson & Samenow, 1976). This may explain the element of risk-taking/sensation-seeking referred to in cognitive theory. Alexander and Staub (1931, cited in Yochelson & Samenow, 1976) asserted that criminals are victims of unconscious processes and are insusceptible to punishment, this may be why criminals are less prone to conditioning (see Ainsworth, 2000). Also, the superego (moral centre) may be underdeveloped due to poor socialisation by the family, leaving the ego (pleasure seeking centre) dominant, and the individual unable to delay gratification (latent delinquency, Wagstaff, 2007; see also, Aichhorn, 1925, cited in Fitzpatrick, 1976; Blackburn, 1993). Nonetheless, these explanations are flawed. Females should be more prone to crime than males as they do not fear castration and so have weaker superegos, but 80 per cent of all offenders are male (Home Office, 2007). Kline (1987, cited in Blackburn, 1993) argued unconscious conflicts cannot explain all crimes, such as acquisitive white-collar crimes.

Bowlby (1946, cited in Wagstaff, 2007) found that a childs prolonged separation from their mother during the first 5 years of life increased their risk of delinquency. However, Warren and Palmer (1965, cited in Virkkunen, 1976) found that criminals were more likely to suffer paternal than maternal deprivation. Critics argue that the state of family relationships have more influence than any separation from a caregiver (Loeber & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1986; Rutter, 1979). The theory also states that early attachment styles are internalised as a working model of dyadic relationships (Blackburn, 1993). This is supported by Ward, Hudson, Marshall and Siegert (1995) who found different attachment styles affect type of crime committed, for example, anxious-ambivalent attachment is linked to child sex offences. However, it also possible that 6

criminality may be influenced by having a good relationship with a criminal father. The child introjects the fathers criminal ways (Blackburn, 1993). Bowlby (1970) argued that psychopaths are much more likely to have suffered the death, divorce or separation of their parents, leading to a disruption of bonds which may account for their anti-social personality.

Psychopathy a distinct criminal personality? Psychopathy is defined as collection of affective, interpersonal and behavioural characteristics including impulsivity, shallow emotion, lack of empathy or guilt and persistent violation of social norms (Cleckley, 1976). Blair, Peschardt, Budhani, Mitchell and Pine (2006) found that the emotional problems seen in psychopaths are due to genetic rather than social causes. Hkknen,-Nyholm, Repo-Tiihonen, Lindberg, Salenius &Weizmann-Henelius (2009) found that over half of the sexual offenders in their sample were psychopathic and they were more likely to be violent (see also, Gretton, Hare & Catchpole, 2004; Rasmussen, Storster & Levander, 1999). However, Heilbrun (1979) found that whilst psychopathy was found to be predictive of violence, this was only in those with low intelligence, who also showed greater levels of impulsivity. This suggests that whilst psychopathy may have an effect on the type of crime committed, it is also dependent upon other factors, which may be genetically based. The prevalence of psychopathy in UK prison population is 7.7 per cent in males and 1.9 per cent in females (Coid et al., 2009). Therefore it is obvious that psychopathy only plays a role in certain instances, although it is possible that those with higher intelligence (and therefore less impulsivity) are less likely to be caught and be represented in the prison populations used in these studies.

Is integration possible? A theory which incorporates all the above could aid our understanding of criminal behaviour (see 7

Figure 1) and may help researchers reveal how much variability each explanation is responsible for. For example, genetics affect high levels of EPN (Ainsworth, 2000); and therefore the personalities of parents (which dictates their behaviour towards their children); psychopathy (Blair et al. 2006); and cognition. These variables interact not only with each other but with other individuals in the social environment and certain situational variables (such as the presence of criminal peers and opportunities for crime). The presence of some or all of these variables increases the likelihood of the individual committing a crime. This behaviour then feeds back to the criminals cognitions and affects future behaviour (possibly increasing the neurotic conflicts already present, Blackburn, 1993, or reinforcing the criminals faulty perceptions of himself).

Figure 1: How different psychological theories interact in explaining criminal personality. High EPN

Genetic Predisposition

Dysfunctional Family Characteristics

Faulty Cognitive Appraisal

Criminal Behaviour

Psychopathy Social Environment & Situational Variables

Conclusions Psychological theories of criminal personality aim to explain the individual differences in criminal behaviour which sociological and criminological theories cannot. Despite some overlaps, e.g. between Eysencks PEN theory and genetics, they all attempt to explain distinct 8

psychological constructs. Samenows quotation illustrates just one possible aspect of why people commit crime, and no theory has all the answers. A truly useful theory of criminal personality would take all of the above theories and integrate them to help truly understand what causes the variability of criminal behaviour.

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