This chapter explores how integrating the science of criminal decision making and contemporary biosocial criminology can benefit our understanding of why people make criminal action decisions and the role of biological factors. It reviews relevant biosocial findings but argues that efforts to link them to criminal decision making are limited by the lack of a strong model of the action process. It then compares how key components of this process—motivation, perception, and choice—are portrayed in models of criminal decision making with what is currently known about their biomechanics. It concludes that models of criminal decision making would benefit from the integration of evidence from the biological sciences and that some common assumptions may need to be reconsidered. It argues that biosocial criminology would benefit from a stronger, more biologically informed model of criminal decision making, which could better explain the role of biological factors in crime causation.
This chapter examines burglary event decisions, decisions leading up to the burglary, and the burglary characteristics that provide insights into them. It critically reviews the evidence on burglary decisions; highlights gaps in knowledge, methodologies, and aspects of theory; and discusses the potential for additional research. It draws on studies based on interviews and experimental research with imprisoned offenders and, less commonly, active burglars, as well as research on targeting patterns and burglary target characteristics. Topics are ordered to consider theories, targeting strategies, and selection decisions; decisions at the scene relating to entering, while inside, and leaving premises; decisions about which goods to steal and their disposal; and the evaluation of successful and unsuccessful decisions. The extent to which selected theories help explain key decisions is critically assessed.
Sarah B. van Mastrigt
A notable proportion of crime is committed in company, particularly during youth, but relatively little attention has been paid to the influence of co-offenders on criminal decision making. This chapter reviews current theory and research on co-offending as it relates to three aspects of offender decision making: the decision to (co)-offend, the selection of accomplices, and choices shaping the characteristics of the criminal event (planning, target selection, and seriousness). Both implicit and explicit decision making are considered, as well as situations in which the offense is premeditated and collaboration is explicitly sought after a plan has been made and situations in which the motivation to offend develops in a group of preformed individuals who become co-offenders by committing the act. The chapter concludes with a discussion of gaps in the current evidence base and directions for future research.
Gabriel T Cesar and Scott H. Decker
Carjacking is a bold crime characterized by unpredictability and danger. Media reports have identified carjackings throughout the world, and estimates suggest 34,000 occur annually in the United States alone. Research with active offenders has examined carjacking in the context of US street crime, but official reporting inconsistencies and a focus on instrumental motivations hinder a more comprehensive understanding of this crime. The lack of a theoretical framework to analyze the decision-making behaviors of carjackers further complicates the development of effective means to deal with carjacking. With this in mind, this chapter synthesizes the current literature about carjacking and then integrates that synthesis with van Gelder’s “hot/cool” approach to offender decision making. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of this framework for carjacking policy and prevention, and it suggests directions for future research.
Crime requires the simultaneous presence of offenders and targets. This essay reviews what is known about how offenders come to intersect in time and space with their targets. It addresses their motivations, destinations, routes, distances, directions, modes of transportation, and travel companions, if any. Rational choice theory has been applied widely to organize and interpret empirical observations. Space-time geography and crime pattern theory emphasize the role of habitual behavior and routine activities. Previous research used police records and offender interviews, mainly to assess how far from home offenders committed crimes. Contemporary research utilizes time-use diaries and geographic tracking devices to measure multiple aspects of crime journeys. Future studies will profit from the advance of smartphones and similar devices.
Crime is unevenly distributed in space. This chapter discusses the uneven spatial patterns in crime from an offender decision-making perspective. It describes the main theoretical perspectives in environmental criminology (the rational choice perspective, routine activity approach, and crime pattern theory) and reviews the empirical research with an emphasis on studies that have used a discrete spatial choice framework for analyzing individual crime location choices. The strength of the discrete spatial choice framework, several of its assumptions, and its link with random utility maximization theory are discussed. The chapter concludes with several challenges for future crime location choice research, including challenges regarding temporal aspects of criminal decision making, planned versus opportunistic crimes, and solved versus unsolved crimes.
Nadine Deslauriers-Varin, Patrick Lussier, and Stacy Tzoumakis
Crime specialization is one of the most researched and often-debated criminal career parameters. To date, the concept of specialization has been approached mainly from a static viewpoint whereby crime specialization and criminal versatility have been conceptualized as two opposite end of a continuum. Emerging research based on longitudinal data, however, has led to the emergence of a dynamic-oriented perspective where specialization and versatility can occur during one’s career. In this essay, the evolution of the concept of crime specialization is highlighted along with associated theoretical, conceptual, methodological, and empirical issues stemming from this gradual change. Policy implications and directions for future research on the development of criminal careers are highlighted.
This article explores the impact of psychiatric theories and practices in the administration of criminal justice systems, largely in the Anglophone West. It focuses on the increasing use of psychiatric testimony in criminal trials, the struggle by doctors to expand the utility of this testimony beyond the strictures imposed by the M’Naghten Rules governing the insanity defense, and the increasing resort to psychiatric assessments at both the pretrial and posttrial stages to stream those deemed patients out of the prison system. By the interwar years psychiatric assessments and treatments were also being used extensively in prisons in some jurisdictions to govern decisions about parole and release. By the 1960s, however, a backlash against psychiatry and a loss of faith in rehabilitative strategies had curtailed its impact, although it remains an important element within most Western criminal justice systems.
Fiona Brookman and Michelle Wright
This chapter examines the cognitive, affective, and situational factors that influence the decision-making processes of those who kill. With little existing research that specifically focuses on homicide offender decision making, this chapter brings together criminological and psychological research on violence-related cognition, affect, and the situational dynamics of violent encounters. The authors make the case for combining these three perspectives in order to better understand decision making and homicide. Four case studies, two cases of homicide and two of sublethal encounters, illuminate offenders’ thoughts and feelings prior to and during the commission of the offense and illustrate the complex interplay of cognitive, affective, and situational factors in lethal and near-lethal events. The chapter concludes with proposed avenues for future research.
Jean-Louis van Gelder
This chapter discusses the application of dual-process and dual-system models to offender decision making. It is argued that these models offer a more accurate account of the decision process than the traditional choice models in criminology, such as rational choice and deterrence models, and can overcome their various limitations. Specific attention is devoted to the hot/cool perspective of criminal decision making, which takes the dual-process hypothesis as a point of departure. This model is rooted in the idea that both “cool” cognition and “hot” affect, or thinking and feeling, guide behavior and that understanding their interaction is fundamental for understanding how people make criminal choices.