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The Psychology of the Criminal Behavior in Society Essay Sample

At the present time, the crime rate is constantly increasing. The reasons for this negative phenomenon are diverse, including poverty, poor living conditions an imperfect justice system, and free access to a weapon. However, people omit such factor as the psychology of the offender and his behavior that explains much concerning committing a crime. The question of the psychology of the criminal behavior in society is essential when it comes to the differences in behavior between criminals and ordinary people. This problem is important to psychology as it presupposes deviation in behaviors, opinions, and thoughts.

Ordinary People and Criminals: Behavioral Differences

Consequently, analyzing the psychological behavior of criminals, one should take into consideration the external circumstances, irresistible impulses, neuroticism, personality traits, and mental state. Defining the nature and psychology of criminal behavior one should analyze it according to the classical theory, rational choice theory, mutually exclusive criminological system, social disorganization theory, individual trait theory, differential association theory, subcultural theory, anomie theory, integrated theory, and critical theory.

Such a variety of approaches to criminal behavior proves the difficulty of its explaining. Consequently, one addresses the psychology as a way of treatment and analysis of the criminal behavior. One can distinguish the following psychological factors relevant to explaining the criminal behavior as drug and alcohol abuse, peer influence, education, hormones, brain activity, heredity, parental relations, and discouraging the choice. Moreover, criminal behavior includes the emotive aspect that encourages criminals to commit the violent actions. It is evident that pride, revenge, jealousy, anger, and greed are the driving forces of any crime.

As a result, it is the information known to me before I wrote this research paper. I hope to understand deeper the psychology of criminal behaviors in society, analyze the psychological characteristics of criminals, particularly, the sadistic serial killers. Before reading this paper, one should know such notions as compartmentalization, dehumanization, and sociopath.

The sociopath is a person who suffers from a disorder of character or personality rather than the mind.
Compartmentalization is a psychological technique used by criminals to neutralize or overcome guilt.
Dehumanization is a capacity of people to regard others as demons or animals.

This research paper consists of the introduction, article discussions, analysis, hypothesis, and references. It intends to explain the psychology of criminal behavior in the society and show the differences between the behavioral patterns of the ordinary people and criminals.

Article Discussions

Research as to whether the psychology of the serial violent crimes differs from the usual behavior of the ordinary people is a not properly studied phenomenon. As a rule, psychologists name sadistic serial killers sociopaths deprived of empathy. However, Levin and Fox (2007) suggest behavioral characteristics that are distinct from those actually shared. The researchers pay attention to such processes as dehumanization and compartmentalization that allow serial killers murder, torture, and rape with moral impunity. Consequently, they reveal the relation of sociopathy to serial murders, explain the process of the presentation of self, and show the importance of compartmentalization and dehumanization and consequences of lack of empathy (Levin & Fox, 2007). Moreover, the study reveals such points as mind, extreme killing, psychopaths, and psychological factors contributing to crimes. As a result, the researchers’ hypothesis is to prove that the psychological patterns can explain the difference between the behavior of the ordinary people and criminals.

Levin and Fox (2007) use the qualitative method in this research, particularly analysis, comparison, and evaluation. The research was conducted by evaluating and analyzing data from the articles related to criminology and psychology. The qualitative method of research has been chosen because it can provide the necessary data about the connection between criminology and psychology. Data analysis has involved describing, examining, comparing, categorizing, simplifying, abstracting, transforming, and concluding.

Levin and Fox (2007) have conducted the necessary research to show that serial killers can both differ from the ordinary people and look similar. However, only psychology can explain the difference between them. First, one should not relate the term “sociopathy” only to the serial killers and other criminals as this term presupposes the antisocial personality behavior characteristics that are typical for the ordinary people. Secondly, Levin and Fox (2007) describe serial killers as skillful in the presentation of self-comparing with the ordinary people. “Even if serial killers seem to be skillful at the presentation of self, they are certainly not alone in their concern for projecting an image that is acceptable to others,” conclude researchers (Levin & Fox, 2007, p. 5).

This particular study investigates the notion of compartmentalization that proves the psychological strength of serial killers in the ability to hide their guilt. Compartmentalization is based on the psychological ability of persuasion and life experience that prevail under the feelings of guilt. The research was conducted by analyzing the process of dehumanization that insists that serial killers have the advantage in the selection of victims. As for the ordinary people, they become victims of serial killers because dehumanization is not characteristic to them. Lack of empathy is another distinctive feature of the psychology of serial killers. Criminologists, as well as psychologists, regard the lack of empathy as the feature of sadistic killers. The ordinary people have feelings and emotions related to sympathy. On the contrary, the criminals are not capable of appreciating the victims’ suffering and pain (Levin & Fox, 2007).

Research on whether gang involvement affects a person’s psychological state is also crucial for explaining the peculiarities of criminal behavior. The common consensus is that psychological and behavioral characteristics of youth define their desire to be involved or not involved in gangs. Alleyne and Wood (2010) pay attention to such psychological behaviors as the attitude toward authority, the perception of out-group threat, the levels of moral disengagement as measures of the criminal activity. The hypothesis of this article is to prove that psychological weakness can have poor consequences such as gang involvement or becoming the victim of the gang.

The participants of this research are 998 students from five London schools. The researchers have chosen the quantitative method, particularly the survey to obtain the necessary data. The results of the survey are the following: 59 students are gang members, 75 students belong to the peripheral youth, and 664 students are identified as a non-gang youth. It means that gang members and peripheral youth are more delinquent to the priorities of the gang. Moreover, these results have destroyed the stereotypical vision of gang members. First, gang members are committed to more minor offenses comparing with the peripheral youth and non-gang youth (Alleyne & Wood, 2010).

Such measures as gang priorities, delinquency, and perception of the social norms, the social status scale, moral disengagement, and influence of the formal authority define the psychology of the criminal behavior of gang members in the society. Gang priorities are crucial for gang members. Consequently, one gang member cannot commit a crime without the permission of others. It means that the priority of their gag is above their individual desires. As to the priorities of the ordinary people, they are subject to own moral principles, education, thoughts of the society, family background, and peer influence.

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Another difference between criminal gangs and ordinary students is the attitude to delinquency and its kinds. The researchers distinguish minor offending, property offending, crimes against the person, and overall delinquency. The results of this research prove that ordinary students can easily plead guilty comparing with the criminal gangs. “The incorporation of the psychological processes that delineate non-gang youth, peripheral youth and gang members expands previous research and highlights the importance of examining individual differences in the cognitive processes that relate to gang membership” (Alleyne & Wood, 2010, p. 423). It means that only psychological factors will be relevant when it comes to the explanation of the motives and behaviors of criminal gangs.

Research on whether gang violence and criminal interventions refer to the psychological issues is not up for much debate. Harris, Turner, Garrett, and Atkinson (2011) try to understand the entity of the gang as a unit of criminal society and reveal the psychological factors related to crime committing. Consequently, the hypothesis of the researchers is to prove that such psychological factors as motivation and membership influence can encourage or deter from gang involvement and crime committing.

Harris et al. (2011) define such barriers preventive from being law obedient citizens. They include an over-reliance on other people, the absence of concrete and future realistic plans, commitment to stereotypical thinking, and motivation for crime committing. “Exploring personal motivations for joining and staying with street gangs might help to identify ways of engaging offenders in intervention, and motivating them towards pro-social change” (Harris et al., 2011, p. 3). It means that the application of the psychological knowledge can be relevant for explaining the criminal and anti-social behavior.

This particular study investigates how and why people are inclined to criminal behavior. The research was conducted by analyzing data received from a survey. The main steps of the research were to identify potential gang members and screen candidates for violence history. Quantitative and Qualitative methods were applied for this research. The quantitative, particularly survey, was used to define the number of people involved in gangs and violent activities. The qualitative method, particularly, the analysis was applied to determine the objectives and motivation of criminals.

The participants of this research were prisoners of different age, cultural background, ethnicity, and gender. The research questions included the notion of gang, psychological factors motivating to gang joining and crime committing, and personal decision about the use of violence.

Analysis

Having analyzed these articles, it becomes evident that any criminal behavior has a psychological background. Such factors as motivation, education, family, peer influence, personal characteristics and moral strength determine criminal behavior in the society. These articles show that crimes are committed to pursuing personal interests. It means that the article Normalcy in behavioral characteristics of the sadistic serial killer treats crime according to the rational choice crime theory. Consequently, people are not born with the inclination to sadism or killing. On the contrary, they always have the choice to kill or not to kill. Only such psychological factors as motivation and personal prejudices can encourage or deter from crime.

Furthermore, one can analyze the article Gang involvement: Psychological and behavioral characteristics of gang members, peripheral youth and non-gang youth according to the rational choice crime theory as the previous one. The authors of this article insist that the personal characteristics, psychological strengths, and choice precondition gang involvement. It means that rationalism, as a psychological factor will be again relevant here. Moreover, one can analyze this article in terms of the individual trait theory. It means that the special biological and psychological traits will be the determinants during any violent activity. The criminal entity of the person depends on these determinants.

The article Understanding the psychology of gang violence: Implications for designing effective violence interventions can be analyzed in terms of the social disorganization crime theory. It proves that such external characteristics as ethnicity, gender, and age are the driving forces for the involvement in gang violence. Moreover, the authors insist that lack of collective efficacy and social control leads to criminal behavior and development of gang violence. One can also analyze the results of this research according to differential association social learning subcultural theory. It presupposes that the main cause of crime is the interaction with the antisocial peers.

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These articles are united with the common objective to show that the psychology of the criminals differs from the psychology of the ordinary people. The main points of these articles are to conduct the research concerning criminal behavior and psychological factors that are the determinants of this criminal behavior. However, the following articles differ from one another in the hypothesis selected. Levin and Fox (2007) aim at proving that the psychological patterns can explain the difference between the behavior of the ordinary people and criminals. On the other hand, Alleyne and Wood (2010) prove that psychological weakness can have poor consequences such as gang involvement or becoming the victim of the gang. Finally, the hypothesis of the researchers Harris et al. (2011) is to prove that such psychological factors as motivation and membership influence can encourage or deter from gang involvement and crime committing.

These articles are similar because they intend to explain the psychological factors benefitting the criminal behavior in the society. They are different in the research design as the first article relies upon the qualitative method, the second article is based on the quantitative one, and the third article combines both methods. These articles support one another as their information is related to different criminological theories but the same psychological direction. The results of these researches can be fit together due to the similarity of the direction despite the differences in the results. The strengths of these articles are related to the methods and research design. The weakness of these articles is the fact that they do not prove that psychology is a leading determinant of crimes.

Hypothesis

The general hypothesis of the research is that the psychological differences (motivation, personal characteristics, traits, and character) determine whether the person is inclined to the criminal behavior and anti-social activities.

The specific or sub-hypotheses of the study include:

  • Criminal behavior is predetermined by age, gender, ethnicity, culture, education, and family background.
  • Psychologically weak people can easily be involved in the criminal gangs.
  • Such psychological factors as motivation and membership influence can encourage or deter from crime committing.

The data necessary to test these hypotheses will be derived from secondary data sources, three articles that have different hypotheses, but collect the information related to the psychology of the criminal behavior. The methodological assessment of this research is based on the qualitative and quantitative approaches necessary for collection and evaluation of the data. The study also uses dependent and independent variables in the work that help identify the strengths and weaknesses of the paper from different angles.

Consequently, one can say that the hypothesis has been fully proved as it is based on the reliable sources of information. Analysis of the articles confirms the psychological changes in behavior can be the signals of the inclination of the person to violence and crimes. To avoid violence inclination, the person should be highly motivated, follow moral and ethical principles, and be psychologically stable to any negative events.

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