Physiological theories of criminality

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  • Physiological explanations of criminality
    • Cesare Lombroso
      • Lombroso was a physician and professor of criminal psychiatry born in 1835. He was known as the "father of criminology!
      • CONCLUSIONS: Criminals are a evolutionary throwback and have reverted to a more primitive stage of human evolution. This is known as atavism.
        • Criminals show a higher percentage of physical and mental anomalies than non-criminals
        • Criminals may not be responsible for their behaviour as it is predetermined by forces outside their control. The stigmata are symptoms not causes.
    • Sheldon
      • Sheldon developed a theory similar to Lombroso's that criminal behaviour is linked to a person's physical body type
        • he examined 4000 photographs of college age men and rated each one on a scale of 1 to 7 on their resemblance to mesomorphy
        • He put forward the idea that there are three body types known as Somatotypes.
          • Ectomorph
            • Thin and fragile, lean, lightly muscled, small shouldered, thin.
              • Restrained, sensitive, introverted, least likely to be a criminal
          • Endomorph
            • Soft and fat, underdeveloped muscles, round physique, difficulty losing weight
              • Tolerant, relaxed, sociable, pleasant, extraverted
          • Mesomorph
            • Muscular, athletic, excellent physique, gain muscle easily
              • Courageous, energetic, active, assertive, aggressive, risk taker, adventurous, most likely to be a criminal
      • Backed up by Hartl et al (1982)
        • Excludes the possibility that nurture could play apart in someone becoming a criminal
    • Raine 1997
      • Aimed to find out if there is a difference in the structure of brain activity between people who have murdered and those who haven't
        • 41 offenders pleading NGRI to the crime of murder and 41 controls
          • Participants completed a CPT task to get their brain working them had a PET scan to look into their brains
            • FINDINGS: Murderers showed less activity in the frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex which is associated with rational thinking, self restraint and memory.
              • Less activity in the parietal lobe which is associated with abstract thinking such as morality and justice
      • CONCLUSION: Prefrontal deficits might make someone more impulsive. Deficits in the limbic system could make someone aggressive. There  IS a link between brain structure and aggression
    • Assumes that criminality is a result of the criminal's biological functioning


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