This sample of an academic paper on Criminal Thinking Errors reveals arguments and important aspects of this topic. Read this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion below.
A) There are many theories which psychologists have found to help explain and understand criminal thinking patterns. The information Processing Approach or the rational choice theory proposes hat criminals think about their actions and do a cost and reward analysis. Van Den Haag suggests that there is no difference between the decision to become a dentist and the decision to commit rape or mugging.
An individual weighs up the advantages of that course of action (money for example) and takes away the cost of achieving it (possibly going to jail or, in the case of becoming a dentist, many years of hard study). If the beliefs outweigh the cost regarding an action, the individual will engage in it. Rational choice theories strongly believe that individuals have free will over their decisions.
The Cognitive Dysfunction theory suggests that criminals think in different ways.
These criminals are said to commit crime because of thinking errors. Yolchelson et al identified categories for these thinking errors. The first is criminal thinking patterns, these are characterised by both fear and a need for power and control. The second is Automatic thinking errors; these include a lack of empathy and trust, failure to accept obligations and a secretive communication style. The last was Crime related thinking errors these include optimistic fantasising about specific criminal acts with no regard for deterrent factors.
The atypical Moral Development theory suggests that criminals have lower levels of cognitive development. Kohlberg suggests that there are three stages of development on moral reasoning. The first is Pre-conventional; this is basic thinking and instinct. The second is Conventional, this means that you do accept things but do start to think of the consequences. The last is Post-conventional, this means that you fully understand and accept things but must follow your conscience.
Psychologists have also found other factors associated with crime which has been classed as individual differences. Some criminals may have lack of empathy meaning that they do not understand others feelings in situations. Also Impulsivity is recognised as a factor as criminals may act on impulses, rather than thinking through their actions. Another theory based on other factors is the Attributation theory, this is where the criminal describes the crime as a motive for example, they spilled their drink on me deliberately so I hit them, where’ as the case may be that it was accidental.
B) There are many evaluative issues regarding the theories on criminal thinking patterns. The strengths of rational choice theory are that it strongly believes that the individuals have free will and that it is supported by the work of Van Den Haag (1982). The criticism of the theory is that not all criminal decisions are rational this is supported by Crawford et al. Also, the theory does not take into account the mind of the criminal as if the criminal is intoxicated or suffering from a mental disorder they may not be thinking rationally. The theory also presumes that the criminal will have accurate information to do the cost award analysis, for example criminals may not know the true sentence length for a crime. The theory suggests that all criminals do the same cost reward analysis for crimes but more experienced criminals will have a different perception of the cost and rewards than someone less experienced. Although the theory has been supported by Van Den Haag there are many criticisms.
The strengths of the Cognitive Dysfunction theories is that the theory is supported by Yolchelson and Samehow who found that non criminals were more intelligent than criminals and that criminals chose to do crimes due to thinking errors. Although the study is supported by Yolchelson and Samehow, Wulach (98) suggests that they only describe psychopaths and so their theory cannot be regarded as a general theory of crime.
The strength of Atypical Moral Development theory is that within their study the stories were directly translated in other countries so a better generalisation can be made to the population. The theory also explains moral reasoning. Within the study the answers were based on a story, not in real life. This lowers the ecological validity and also increases demand characteristics as participants are likely to give socially desirable answers. The sample used consisted of males and so cannot be generalised to females. Another criticism of the theory is that morals are not genetic, but the result of socialisation so there will be differences between sexes.
In evaluation of the other factors associated with crime, a strength is that the theories explain behaviour in more detail in specific point’s e.g.-motives. Also, it takes into more factors than the other theories on criminal thinking patterns. This theory has also introduced cognitive restructuring to therapy techniques. A criticism of the theory is that it does not take into account biological and social explanations.
C) In terms of criminal thinking patterns there are many ways in which psychologists would explain the occurrence of a crime. Using the rational choice theory psychologists suggest that a criminal would complete a cost reward analysis. Using the example of armed robbery, the criminal would create a mental list of the costs of the crime i.e. – being caught, jail sentence, injury etc. They would also create a mental list of the rewards of the crime i.e. – money, power, control etc. They would then “weigh up” the cost and rewards and if there were more rewards than costs they would choose to commit the crime.
Another way in which psychologist could explain criminal thinking patterns of crimes is by using cognitive dysfunction theory. This theory suggests that criminals think in different ways and have thinking errors. Using the example of armed robbery, the criminal may suffer from automatic thinking errors meaning that they have a lack of empathy and trust, failure to accept obligations and responsibilities and a secretive communication style. This could mean that the criminal chose to commit the crime because he had a lack of empathy and so did not understand what the victims would feel. Also they may have failure to accept obligations and may feel that they do not need to work.