Cognitive psychology
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▪ Humans’ ability to engage in complex thoughts influences behavior. ▪ Cognitions (like behaviors) can be learned. ▪ Focus on: ▪ Cognitive structure (how people think) ▪ Cognitive content (what people think). Cognitive Psychology . Cognitive Structure.

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Cognitive psychology l.jpg

Humans’ ability to engage in complex thoughts influences behavior.

▪ Cognitions (like behaviors) can be learned.

▪ Focus on:

▪ Cognitive structure (how people think)

▪ Cognitive content (what people think)

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive structure l.jpg
Cognitive Structure

▪ HOW WE THINK (Consistent Patterns)

  • Often, what we are not thinking

    ▪ Self-control

    ▪ Ability to empathize

    ▪ Ability to morally reason

    ▪ Ability to control anger

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Policy Implication of Cog Structure

  • Cognitive Skills

    • Build empathy, or self control

    • Improve moral reasoning

  • HOW? Using principles of behaviorism

    • Model, practice, reinforce…

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Cognitive Content

▪ Rationalizations or denials that support criminal behavior

▪ For example, a criminal thinks, “I’m not really hurting anyone.”

  • Extremely common for sex offenders

    ▪ Criminals are more likely to express such thoughts

  • Sociologists are often skeptical (time-ordering)


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Policy Implications of Cognitive Content

▪ Cognitive restructuring attempts to change the content of an individual’s thoughts.

▪ Confront antisocial attitudes when they are expressed

  • “The judge/lawyer screwed me!”

    • You are in this position because of your behavior, and this is your responsibility.

  • “I didn’t really hurt anyone”

    • Lets read the victim impact statement, or look at what happens to victims of this type of offense

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Theory in Action

▪ Multisystematic therapy (MST)

▪ Creator Scott Henggeler and associates

▪ Comprehensive approach that targets many areas for change

▪ Very behavioral

  • Parenting Skills/Support

  • Cognitive Skills/Cognitive Restructuring

  • Shifting Reward/Punishment Balance

  • Model program for rehabilitaiton

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    Personality and Crime

    ▪ Crime and delinquency related to the presence of some personality trait

    ▪ Personality trait: a characteristic of an individual that is stable over time and across different social circumstances

    • Examples?

      ▪ Personality: the sum of personality traits that define a person

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    Personality Traits and Crime

    ▪ A number of related traits combine to form dimensions (super factors)

    ▪ Several different models

    ▪ Five-factor model

    ▪ Tellegen’s personality model

    ▪ Recent studies use the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ)

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    Personality Traits and Crime

    ▪ Personality dimensions in the MPQ

    ▪ Constraint

    ▪ Traditionalism

    ▪ Harm avoidance

    ▪ Control

    ▪ Negative emotionality

    ▪ Aggression

    ▪ Alienation

    ▪ Stress reaction

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    Personality Traits

    ▪ MPQ predicts crime pretty well

    • Negative emotionality and constraint (but not positive emotionality)

    • Does so across race, sex, culture (New Zealand study), and class.

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    Criminal Personality:The Psychopath

    ▪ A distinct “criminal personality”

    ▪ One of the oldest concepts in criminology


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    Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) from DSM-IV

    1. Disregard for the rights of others. At least three of the following:

    behaves in a way that is grounds for arrest, deceitful and manipulative, impulsive, aggressive, irresponsible, lack of remorse

    2. Age 18 or older

    3. A history of child conduct disorder

    4. Antisocial behavior not a product of schizophrenic episode

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    “Psychopath” is narrower concept

    • Hervey Cleckley’s (1957) The Mask of Sanity

    • Key features: Manipulative, Superficial charm, Above-average intelligence, Absence of psychotic symptoms, Absence of anxiety, Lack of remorse, Failure to learn from experience, Egocentric, Lack of emotional depth

    • Other Characteristics: Trivial Sex life, Unreliable, Failure to follow a life plan, Untruthful, Suicide attempts rarely genuine, Impulsive, Antisocial behavior

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    • The Psychopathy Checklist

      • Interview

      • Measures different aspects of psychopathy (each scored on a 0-2 scale)

      • Has produced very interesting studies (difference between psychopath and non-psychopath inmates)

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    Policy Implications of Personality Theory

    ▪ Personality traits consistently predict delinquency and crime.

    ▪ Criticisms:

    • Personality traits are often portrayed as impossible to change (See, Psychopathy)

    • What causes personality traits?

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    Intelligence and Crime

    ▪ “Feeblemindedness” was once thought to be a cause of crime.

    ▪ What exactly is IQ and how does it relate to criminal behavior?

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    A Brief History of Intelligence Testing

    ▪ Binet started out like his peers: Measuring people’s skull size

    • Not much difference—worried about bias in the tests

    • Developed a “hodgepodge” of tests measure identify learning disabled children

      • Not meant to be a measuring device for intelligence in “normal” students

    • Translated to English, used to identify “morons” and “low grade defectives” as part of eugenics

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    IQ and Crime

    ▪ There is an IQ gap of 8–10 points between criminals and noncriminals, even when statistically controlled for race and social class.

    ▪ IQ is not a very strong indicator of criminal behavior.

    • But, it does consistently predict

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    IQ and Crime

    ▪ Travis Hirschi and Michael Hindelang

    ▪ The Bell Curve

    ▪Direct effect

    ▪ Most criminologists find evidence of indirect effects

    IQ  School, Peers, etc.  Crime

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    ▪ The common emphasis of all psychological theories is on the individual.

    ▪ Modern Theory


    • COGNITION and IQ


      ▪ Many psychological theories translate well into treatment programs.

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    Social Structure I


    The “Chicago School”

    Social Disorganization

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    Emile Durkheim (late 1858-1917)

    • French Scientist

    • Suicide

    • Humans nature: selfish and insatiable

      • Effective Societies able to “cap” desires

        • Socialization & Social Ties

      • Special concern with “Industrial Prosperity”

    • Coined the Term “Anomie”:

      • Institutionalized norms lose ability to control human behavior and human needs

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    Durkhiem’s Legacy

    Rapidly Changing


    “Industrial Prosperity”


    (Norms are Weakened)

    Human Nature as

    Insatiable; must

    therefore cap or control

    Social Ties Important

    The Anomie/Strain Tradition


    The Social Disorganization and “Informal Control” Tradition (Today)

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    Meanwhile, back in America

    • “Social Pathologists” (1900-1930)

      • Cities as “bad” and “corrupting”

      • Immigrants as amoral and inferior

    • Chicago School (1930s)

      • University of Chicago (Sociologists)

      • Tie to Durkheim: City/Societal Growth

        • Worry over lack of integration (and control)

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    Park & Burgess (1925)

    How does a city growth and develop?

    • Concentric Zones in Chicago

    Industrial zone

    Zone in transition

    Residential zones

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    Shaw and McKay

    • Juvenile Delinquency in Urban Areas 1942.

      • Mapped addresses of delinquents (court records)

      • Zone in transition stable and high delinquency rates over many years

      • Implications of these findings:

        1. Stable, despite multiple waves of immigrants!!

        2. Only certain areas of the city Something about

        this area causes delinquency

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    Social Disorganization

    • What were the characteristics of the zone in transition that may cause high delinquency rates?

      • Population Heterogeneity

      • Population Turnover

      • Physical Decay

      • Poverty/Inequality

    • Why might these ecological characteristics lead to high crime rates?

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    Explaining high crime in the zone of transition

    1. Social Control

    • Little community “cohesion,” therefore, weak community institutions and lack of control

      2. Cultural Transmission of Values

    • Once crime rooted in a neighborhood, delinquent values are passed trough generations of delinquents

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    Social Disorganization 1960-1980

    • Fell out of favor in sociology in 1950s

      • Individual theories gained popularity

    • Criticisms of Social Disorganization

      • “Official Data”

      • Are these neighborhoods really “disorganized?”

      • Cannot measure “intervening variables”

      • “Chicago Specific” (not all cities grow in rings)

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    Modern S.D. Theory

    • Interest rekindled in the 1980s

      • Continues today with “ecological studies”

      • reborn as a pure social control theory (left behind “transmission of values)

    • Addressing criticism

      • “Concentric rings” not necessary, it is simply a neighborhood level theory

      • Ecological characteristics do affect a neighborhoods level of informal control

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    Sampson and Groves (1989)

    Using British Crime Survey Data (BCS)



    • Population turnover

      • Poverty / inequality

      • Divorce rates

      • Single parents


  • Street supervision

  • Friendship networks

  • Participation in

  • organizations

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    Sampson (1997)

    • Replicated results in Chicago

      • Areas with “concentrated disadvantage,” (poverty, race, age composition, family disruption) lack “collective efficacy”

        • Willingness to exercise control (tell kids to quiet down)

        • Willingness to trust or help each other

      • Lack of collective efficacy increases crime rates

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    Review of Social Disorganization

    • Macro (Neighborhood) level theory

      • Explains why certain neighborhoods have high crime rates

        Ecological Social Crime

        Characteristics Control Rates

    • Theory of “Places,” and not “People”

      • Not all people who live there are “crime prone,” in fact most are law-abiding

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    Other recent “ecological” ideas

    • William J. Wilson (Concentrated Poverty)

      • The “Underclass” or “Truly Disadvantaged”

      • Cultural Isolation no contact with “mainstream” individuals/institutions

        • Little respect for “life,” hypermaterialism, violence as “normative”

    • Robert Bursik

      • Political capital; inadequate access to public services

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    S.D. as an explanation for high rates of African American offending

    • “Non-Southern” blacks

      • High proportion of the current members of the “Zone in Transition.”

        • Public Policy has made matters worse (high rise “projects” of the 1950s-60s)

      • Why not move like ZIT residents (immigrants)

        • Housing Segregation

        • Loss of Manufacturing Jobs

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    Policy Implications? offending

    • Build neighborhood “collective efficacy”

      • How do you do this?

    • Address ecological characteristics that ruin collective efficacy

      • Family disruption, concentrated poverty, residential mobility

    • Moving to Opportunity Program in Baltimore

      • Randomly moved 200 families from high poverty to low poverty—then track the children

  • Community Policing Movement

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