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.
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 chapter seeks to enrich and extend thinking about the rational choice perspective to offender decision making and its pivotal application in situational crime prevention by taking an evolutionary approach, which is still uncommon in crime science and criminology. The chapter introduces basic concepts of evolution, covering the brain and behavior, levels and types of explanation, the strained relationship with social science, and the evidencing of evolutionary processes. The focus then shifts to rationality, covering decision making; the wider suite of processes needed to understand rationality in action; and specific discussions of cooperation, humans’ wider “sociocognitive niche,” and development. Although evolutionary issues are addressed throughout, the penultimate section discusses how rationality in the broadest sense has unfolded over evolutionary history and the significant connection between maximization of utility in contemporary rational choice and maximization/optimization of fitness in evolution. The conclusion raises practical, empirical, and theoretical questions for crime science.
Game theory analyzes strategic decision making of multiple interdependent actors and has become influential in economics, political science, and sociology. It provides novel insights in criminology because it is a universal language for the unification of the social and behavioral sciences and allows deriving new hypotheses from fundamental assumptions about decision making. This chapter first reviews foundations and assumptions of game theory, basic concepts, and definitions. This includes applications of game theory to offender decision making in different strategic interaction settings: simultaneous and sequential games and signaling games. Next, the chapter illustrates the benefits (and problems) of game theoretical models for the analysis of crime and punishment by providing an in-depth discussion of the “inspection game.” The formal analytics are described, point predictions are derived, and hypotheses are tested by laboratory experiments. The chapter concludes with a discussion of theoretical and practical implications of results from the inspection game.
Ralph B. Taylor
This chapter discusses research and theorizing about the crime impacts of the physical environment, relating it to past reviews of scholarship in this area, and highlighting the crucial question of causality. It introduces key stumbling blocks in community criminology that must be addressed before scholarship can advance on the crucial causality question. Environmental criminology in a deep sense represents a field within a broader field of community criminology. The chapter underscores just a few of the most important recent works in four select areas within the physical environment-crime scholarship: space syntax, facilities and land use, accessibility/permeability, and crime prevention through environmental design/defensible space. The final section sketches one possible avenue for future research which can address these concerns.
Personality and Offender Decision Making: The Theoretical, Empirical, and Practical Implications for Criminology
This chapter introduces readers to the notion of personality and how it relates to offending through decision making. It also demonstrates the importance of personality to criminological inquiry more generally. The chapter begins with an explanation of what is personality, with a focus on two of the more common structural models used to measure it. In addition, a review of the robust association between personality and offending is provided. This is followed by an explanation of the theoretical and empirical linkages between personality and offender decision making. The final section provides readers with a sense of how personality can be better integrated into criminology and the advantages that can be realized by doing so.
Megan Eileen Collins and Thomas A. Loughran
A growing body of research on offender decision making has focused on studying the use of heuristic biases, or cognitive shortcuts taken in certain situations, when offenders make decisions in the face of uncertainty. The idea is that when offenders (or any individuals) are contemplating uncertain decisions with limited time, information, or resources to make a rational choice calculus, heuristics enable a suitable decision to be reached quickly. However, often heuristics can lead to biases, errors, preference reversals, or suboptimal decisions. This chapter considers departures from rational behavior and heuristics and biases, specifically how the latter have been integrated into the study of offenders’ choice calculus. In particular, it reviews how biases and deviations from rationality have been routinely observed when studying offender decisions.
Social Learner Decision Making: Matching Theory as a Unifying Framework for Recasting a General Theory
Carter Rees and L. Thomas Winfree
Social learning theory is one of the leading theories in the field of criminology. This chapter provides an overview of the role of choice and human agency within the theoretical framework of social learning and their integrative importance for understanding delinquency and crime. Emphasis is placed on research stemming from Herrnstein’s matching law, choice allocation, and statistical models of social learning as applied to social networks. The chapter provides a unifying discussion of choice-based theories of behavior, elaborates on existing statistical models used to test these choice-based and social learning theories, and suggests topics for an innovative research agenda grounded in the relevant literature. In addition, the chapter articulates a research agenda that will help researchers further promote empirical and theoretical advancements in the social learning tradition of criminology.