Sheldon's Theory

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  • Sheldon's Theory
    • Facts
      • Came up with somatotypes.
        • Born: November 19, 1898. Died: September 16, 1977.
      • Biological theory- predicted crime based on a person's body type.
    • Claims
      • Looked at 4,000 clothed men, claiming that people could be classified into three somatotypes.
        • 1.Ectomorphic- (thin/fragile) and introverted.
        • 2.Endomorphic- (fat and soft) tend to be sociable and relaxed.
        • 3.Mesomorphic- (muscular and hard) tend to be aggressive and adventurous.
          • The claim was that mesomorphic people are more likely to be criminals.
    • Components
      • Correlational study- asking people to rate 200 photos, on a scale of 1-7, according to how close to the mesomorph type each was
        • Half the photos were college students and half were juvenile delinquents- delinquents had higher average rating as mesomorph.
        • From his study, Sheldon found  that many convicts were mesomorphic and least likely to be ectomorphic.
        • Ectomorphs- more likely to commit suicide.
        • Mesomorphic- more likely to engage in crime.
        • Endomorphs- more likely yo be mentally ill.
    • Credibility
      • Scientific links between testosterone and muscle mass, could be a link between testosterone and aggression.
      • Large sample (200) and had a control group of students to link his theory to.
      • The study is androcentric (focused on men).
      • This theory is deterministic and reductionist.
    • Analysis
      • The theory applies to the Kray Twins and Ted Bundy.
      • However, the theory doesn't apply to Dennis Nilsen and Al Capone.
    • Refuting Evidence
      • Theory suggests we are bad and can't change.
      • Body types can change!
      • Sheldon couldn't explain how ectomorphs and endomorphs can also be criminal.
      • This could discriminate social classes. Working class males are more likely to be muscular and therefore fit the mesomorph somatotype.
      • This can cause bias and labelling of mesomorphs in courts.
    • Supporting Evidence
      • A number of other studies have confirmed an association between bodily build and criminality.
        • Putwain and Sammons,2002.
      • Glueck and Glueck, 1956.
        • Found that 60% mesomorphs in their sample of delinquents, but only 31% in their sample of non-delinquents.


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