People often wonder why it is that criminals commit such horrible acts of murder, rape, arson, and so on. It is a difficult concept to grasp; most people would never act with the intent of harming or killing someone. However, a criminal’s mind works very differently from the average person’s. There are some similarities; criminals are still human, though it may not seem like it at times. Most theories suggest that the main causes of criminal behavior that play a role in affecting a person’s thoughts and impulses are biological, psychological, and sociological.
Regarding biological theories about the causes of crime, a Strategic Policy Brief by the New Zealand Ministry of Justice states:
… [T]he physical body, through inherited genes, evolutionary factors, brain structures, or the role of hormones, has an influence on an individual’s involvement in criminal behavior. Growing understanding of these mechanisms suggests that certain biological factors, such as particular genes, neurological deficits, low serotonin activity, malnutrition and environmental pollutants may all affect a person’s biological propensity for criminal or antisocial behavior.
This means that even just biologically, a large number of things can contribute to the state of
mind a person is in when they commit a needless crime. Someone who is not a criminal or does not partake in offensive behavior would probably have a healthier mind and would not feel so inclined to commit crimes.
There are perhaps more psychological theories than there are biological ones. The most well-known research on personality and crime was Hans Eysenck’s theory, which maintained that “the people who commit offenses have not built up strong consciences, mainly because they
have inherently poor conditionability.
” Eysenck also stated that there were three dimensions of personality: extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. He claimed that people with high levels of extraversion have poorly conditioned responses because “they have low levels of cortical arousal” (“Theories of the Causes of Crime”).
People with high levels of neuroticism also condition less well because they have a high resting level of anxiety that interferes with their conditioning., and people with high levels of psychoticism tend to be offenders because the traits included in Eysenck’s definition of psychoticism are typical of criminals Eysenck’s isn’t the only psychological theory though; another one is impulsiveness. One of the most popular theories linking impulsiveness and offending behavior is that there are “deficits in the executive functions of the brain, located in the frontal lobes.” This means that criminals, or anyone else who is impulsive, have problems controlling themselves because they have poor ability to think their actions through and consider the possible consequences. A healthy person’s mind would be able to recognize the consequences of their actions and make clear decisions instead of acting on urges.
Sociological theories suggest that a person’s place in the socioeconomic structure influences their chances of becoming a criminal. Peoj
living in pover more likely to commit crimes than rich people because they are unable to achieve monetary or social success in any immediate way. According to an abstract published by Larry J. Siegel, Ph.D., social structure theory has three areas of focus: social disorganization, strain, and cultural deviance theories. He goes on to explain: Social disorganization theory suggests that slum dwellers violate the law because they live in areas where social control has broken down. . . Strain theories view crime as resulting from the anger people experience over their inability to achieve legitimate social and economic success…
Cultural deviance theories hold that a unique value system develops in lower class areas. Lower-class values approve of behaviors such as being tough, never showing fear, and defying authority. According to these theories, someone who is not a criminal or who does not commit offending acts is more likely to be wealthy and successful, and live in an upper-class area that is well put together. This is also probably where criminal stereotypes come from. Criminals’ minds are very different from the average healthy person’s, but there is no one reason why. There are many theories that suggest the problems are either psychological, sociological, or biological, and they are all valid. Criminal psychology is a complex topic, but these theories offer a few ideas to begin understanding.