Chapter 8 biosocial approaches
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Chapter 8 Biosocial Approaches. Chapter Summary. Chapter Eight discusses the importance of both genetic and hereditary influences on criminal behavior as well as the environmental interaction with those genetic & biological mechanisms.

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Chapter 8 Biosocial Approaches

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Chapter 8 biosocial approaches

Chapter 8 Biosocial Approaches


Chapter summary

Chapter Summary

  • Chapter Eight discusses the importance of both genetic and hereditary influences on criminal behavior as well as the environmental interaction with those genetic & biological mechanisms.

  • The Chapter begins with a discussion of behavior genetics, and how behavior genetics may be applied to criminal behavior.

  • This is followed with a discussion of evolutionary psychology, and the theories of criminality evolutionary psychology addresses.


Chapter summary1

Chapter Summary

  • Chapter Eight then discusses the importance of neuroscience and the brain components that affect criminality.

  • The author concludes the Chapter with an evaluation of the biosocial approaches, as well as a discussion of the policies biosocial theorists adhere to.

  • After reading this chapter, students should be able to:

  • Understand and explain behavior genetics


Chapter summary2

Chapter Summary

  • Describe and discuss evolutionary psychology

  • Discuss neuroscience, and its implications in criminology

  • Explain the reward dominance theory

  • Explain the prefrontal dysfunction theory

  • Analyze and critique the biosocial approach

  • Discuss the policy implications the biosocial approaches address


Introduction

Introduction

  • Biosocial scientists are aware that we cannot explain behavior genetically, evolutionarily, neurologically, or hormonally without understanding the complementary influence of the environment.


Behavior genetics

Behavior Genetics

  • Behavior genetics: A branch of genetics that studies the relative contributions of heredity and environment to behavioral and personality characteristics.

  • Human behavioral and personality characteristics are observable and measurable components of a person’s phenotype, which is the detectable expression of a person’s genotype interacting with his or her environment.


What are genes

What are Genes?

  • Genes: Strands of DNA that code proteins.

  • Genes produce tendencies or dispositions to respond to the environments in one way rather than in another.


How do behavior geneticists do research on criminal behavior

How do Behavior Geneticists do Research on Criminal Behavior?

  • Behavior genetics sample pairs of individuals such as twins, adoptee/biological sibling pairs, child/parent pairs, and so forth.

  • Heritability: A number ranging between 0 and 1 indicating the extent to which variance in a trait in a population, not in an individual, is due to genetic factors.


How do behavior geneticists do research on criminal behavior1

How do Behavior Geneticists do Research on Criminal Behavior?

  • All cognitive, behavioral, and personality traits are heritable to some degree.

  • High heritability tells us that the present environment at the present time accounts for very little variance in the trait, it does not tell what other environments may affect variance in the trait.


The twin method

The Twin Method

  • If genes are an important source of variation in a trait, then it is logical that individuals who are more genetically similar should be more alike on that trait than individuals who are less genetically similar.

  • Twin methods help to examine the effects of environments that people share and those they do not.


The adoption method

The Adoption Method

  • The adoption method allows us to hold genes constant to investigate the effect of environments, and to hold environments constant to observe the effect of the genes.


Gene environment interaction and correlation

Gene/Environment Interaction and Correlation

  • Gene/Environment (G/E) interaction and G/E correlation describe peoples’ active transactions with their environment .

  • The concept of the G/E interaction involves the notion that people are differently sensitive to identical environmental influences and will thus respond to them in different ways to them.


Gene environment interaction and correlation1

Gene/Environment Interaction and Correlation

  • G/E correlation simply means that genotypes and the environments they find themselves in are related..


Gene environment interaction and correlation2

Gene/Environment Interaction and Correlation

  • There are three types of G/E correlation:

  • Passive G/E correlation refers to the association between genotypes and their environments in children’s earliest years.


Gene environment interaction and correlation3

Gene/Environment Interaction and Correlation

  • Reactive G/E correlation refers to the way parents, siblings, teachers, peers, and others react to the individual on the basis of his or her evocative behavior.

  • Active G/E correlation refers to the active seeking environments compatible with out genetic dispositions.


Behavior genetics and criminal behavior

Behavior Genetics and Criminal Behavior

  • Studies using genetically sensitive methods almost invariably show some genetic influence on antisocial behavior.

  • What behavior genetics does for us is to make more sense of traditional criminological theories by pointing out the genetic underpinnings of some of their favored causal variables and providing us with fresh ways to understand and interpret their findings.


Behavior genetics and criminal behavior1

Behavior Genetics and Criminal Behavior

  • Adoption studies can help us to determine if children at genetic risk for antisocial behavior pattern experience more environmental risks for it than children not at genetic risk.


The modest heritability of criminality

The Modest Heritability of Criminality

  • Genetic influences on antisocial behavior are rather weak.

  • The majority of delinquents probably have little if any genetic vulnerability to criminal behavior while a small minority may have considerable vulnerability.

  • Genetic effects on antisocial behavior appear most likely to be found among chronic offenders who begin on offending prior to puberty and who continue to do so across the life course.


Evolutionary psychology

Evolutionary Psychology

  • Evolutionary psychology is a way of thinking about human behavior using an evolutionary theoretical framework.

  • Evolutionary psychology informs us how the genes of interest came to be present in our species in the first place.

  • This theory focuses on what makes us all the same.


Evolution by natural selection

Evolution by Natural Selection

  • Natural selection “selects” the favorable variants and preserves them in later generations.

  • Natural selection is evolution’s mover and shaker because it continuously adjusts populations to their environments; we call these adjustments adaptations.


Thinking evolutionarily direct vs indirect motivation and the naturalist fallacy

Thinking Evolutionarily: Direct vs. Indirect Motivation and the Naturalist Fallacy

  • Evolutionary logic does not dictate that evolved adaptive behaviors are directly and consciously motivated by concerns of reproductive success.

  • Adaptations move us to seek the immediate means of achieving specific goals, not ultimate evolutionary ends.


Thinking evolutionarily direct vs indirect motivation and the naturalist fallacy1

Thinking Evolutionarily: Direct vs. Indirect Motivation and the Naturalist Fallacy

  • Naturalistic fallacy: The fallacy of confusing “is” with “ought to be.”

  • Nature simply “is,” what “ought to be” is a moral judgment.


The evolution of criminal behavior crime is normal

The Evolution of Criminal Behavior: Crime is Normal

  • Evolutionary logic tells us that if criminal behavior is normal, it must have conferred some evolutionary advantage on our distant ancestors.

  • It is important to realize it is the traits underlying criminal behavior not the specific acts that are the alleged adaptations.


The evolution of criminal behavior crime is normal1

The Evolution of Criminal Behavior: Crime is Normal

  • Criminal behavior is a way to acquire valued resources by exploiting and deceiving others.

  • Although we all have the potential to exploit and deceive others, we are a highly social and cooperative species.


Cooperation creates niches for cheats

Cooperation Creates Niches for Cheats

  • Cheats: Individuals in a population of cooperators who gain resources from others by signaling their cooperation but then failing to follow through.

  • Criminal behavior may be viewed as an extreme form of defaulting on the rules of cooperation or reciprocity.


Cooperation creates niches for cheats1

Cooperation Creates Niches for Cheats

  • The Prisoner’s Dilemma: Although the payoff for cheating is high when the other actor does not cheat, if both cheat they are both worse off than if they cooperate.

  • Cheating is only rational in circumstances of limited interaction and communication.


The evolution of criminal traits

The Evolution of Criminal Traits

  • There are a number of evolutionary theories of crime, all of which focus on sexuality as the prime mover of human behavior.

  • There are two strategies that members of any animal species can follow to maximize reproductive success:

  • Parenting effort: That proportion of the total reproductive effort invested in rearing offspring.

  • Mating effort: That proportion allotted to acquiring sexual partners.


The evolution of criminal traits1

The Evolution of Criminal Traits

  • Humans invest more in parenting effort than any other species.


The evolution of criminal traits2

The Evolution of Criminal Traits

  • The proximate motivation for any male seeking sex is sexual pleasure, with more offspring being a natural consequence.

  • The reproductive success among our ancestral females rested primarily on their ability to secure mates to assist them in raising offspring in exchange for exclusive sexual access, and thus human females evolved a much more discriminating attitude about sexual behavior.


The evolution of criminal traits3

The Evolution of Criminal Traits

  • Because female reproductive success hinges more on parenting effort than mating effort, females have evolved higher levels of the traits that facilitate it and lower level traits unfavorable to it than males.


The neurosciences

The Neurosciences

  • Whether the source of our behavior comes from within us or from out environment it is necessarily funneled through transmitted nerve impulses in the brain.


Some basic concepts and terminology

Some Basic Concepts and Terminology

  • The limbic system is concerned with emotion.

  • Surrounding the limbic system and forming the bulk of the human brain is the neomammalian system (the cerebrum).

  • The outer layer of the cerebrum is the cerebral cortex.


Some basic concepts and terminology1

Some Basic Concepts and Terminology

  • The prefrontal cortex (PFC) occupies approximately one-third of the cerebrum and has extensive connections with other cortical regions, as well as with the deeper structures in the limbic system.

  • Connecting all the brain structures are hundreds of billions of nerve cells called neurons.

  • Sending and receiving messages is accomplished in microscopic fluid-filled gaps between axons and dendrites called synapses.


Some basic concepts and terminology2

Some Basic Concepts and Terminology

  • The brain cell pass the information along the axon electrically until it reaches the synaptic knob at the end of a dendrite, at which time it is translated into chemistry as tiny vesicles burst open and spill out one ore more of a variety of chemicals called neurotransmitters cross the synaptic gap to make contact with postsynaptic receptor sites where the message is translated back into an electrical one for further transportation or inhibition.


Some basic concepts and terminology3

Some Basic Concepts and Terminology

  • The most important neurotransmitters for criminologists to understand are dopamine, serotonin, and norphinephrine.


Chapter 8 biosocial approaches

Figure 8.1 Major Parts of the Brain of Concern to Criminologists

Illustration by Peter A. Collins


Chapter 8 biosocial approaches

Figure 8.2 The Process of Synaptic Transmission

Sketch of two neurons at the top with an enlargement at the bottom showing the release of an unspecified transmitter into the synaptic cleft. Source: Ellis & Walsh, 2000, p. 288.


Softwiring the brain

Softwiring the Brain

  • About 50-60% of our genes are involved in brain development specifying its architecture.

  • Neuroscientists identify two brain developmental processes that physically capture environmental events in a person’s lifetime:

  • Experience-expected: Hard wired and reflect the evolutionary history of the species.

  • Experience-dependent: Reflect each person’s unique developmental history.


Softwiring the brain1

Softwiring the Brain

  • Much of the variability in the brain wiring patterns of different individuals depends on the kinds of physical, social, and cultural environments they will encounter.

  • The process of wiring the brain is known as synaptogenesis.

  • The brain creates and eliminates synapses throughout life, a process termed neural Darwinism.


Bonding attachment and the brain

Bonding, Attachment, and the Brain

  • Humans have powerful neurological and hormonal structures that demand the formation of affectionate bonds, and there are negative consequences associated with the failure to form them.

  • A species giving birth to highly dependent young must evolve mechanisms of love and nurture.


Abuse neglect and the developing brain

Abuse, Neglect, and the Developing Brain

The lack of nurturing and attachment during early development may result in a brain that will adversely affect the child’s ability to interact with its world.

A brain organized by negative events is ripe for anti-social behavior.


The evolutionary neuroandrogenic theory ena

The Evolutionary Neuroandrogenic Theory (ENA)

  • ENA theory asserts that evolutionary, neurological, and hormonal factors, as social environment factors, are all involved in crime causation.

  • Males have been naturally selected for engaging in resource procurement and status-striving.

  • Criminality is part of a continuum of activities involving status-striving in which males are the main offenders.


Reward dominance theory and criminal behavior

Reward Dominance Theory and Criminal Behavior

  • Reward dominance theory: A neurological theory based on the proposition that behavior is regulated by two opposing mechanisms:

  • Behavioral activating system (BAS): Associated chemically with the neurotransmitter dopamine, and anatomically with pleasure areas in the limbic system.

  • Behavioral inhibition system (BIS): Associated with serotonin, and with limbic system structures such as the hippocampus that feed the prefrontal cortex.


Reward dominance theory and criminal behavior1

Reward Dominance Theory and Criminal Behavior

  • The BAS is sensitive to reward signals; the BIS is sensitive to threats of punishment.

  • BIS/BAS theory asserts that criminals have dominant BAS.

  • A third system of behavior control is the fight/flight system (FFS): Refers to ANS mechanisms that mobilize the body for vigorous action in response to threats by pumping out epinephrine.


Prefrontal dysfunction pfd theory and criminal behavior

Prefrontal Dysfunction (PFD) Theory and Criminal Behavior

  • The PFC is responsible for attributes such as making moral judgments, planning for the future, analyzing, synthesizing, and modulating emotions.

  • If these functions are damaged via the PFC, it can result in anti-social behavior.


Evaluation of biosocial perspective

Evaluation of Biosocial Perspective

  • Biosocial theories have been tarred with labels, such as racist, sexist, and classicist.

  • The strength of biosocial approaches lies in their ability to incorporated biological factors into their theories and to physically measure many of them via various chemical, electrophysiological, and neuroimaging methods.


Policy and prevention implications of biosocial theories

Policy and Prevention: Implications of Biosocial Theories

  • Biosocial criminologists advocate a wide variety of nurturing strategies, such as pre- and post-natal care, monitoring infants and young children through the early developmental years, paid maternity leave, and nutritional programs.

  • They look at prevention rather than cures, and favor indeterminate sentencing.

  • Another program is to provide challenging and risky legal alternatives to the excitement of anti-social behavior.


Chapter 8 biosocial approaches

Table 8.1 Summarizing Biosocial Perspectives and Theories

Theory Key Concepts Strengths Weaknesses

Behavior genetics perspective

Genes affect behavior in interaction with environmental influences. Heritability estimates the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factor traits affecting criminality. All individual traits are at least modestly influenced by genes.

Looks at both the genetic and environmental risk factors for criminal behavior Understanding genetic contributions also identifies the complementary contributions of environmental factors.

Requires twin samples of twins and/or adoptees, which are difficult to come by. While general environmental factors are identified, behavior genetics does not specify what they are.

Evolutionary psychology perspective

Human behavior is rooted in evolutionary history. Natural selection has favored victimizing tendencies in humans, especially males. These tendencies arose to facilitate mating effort but are useful in pursuing criminal behavior as well. Criminals emphasize mating effort over parenting effort more than males in general.

Ties criminology to evolutionary biology. Mating effort helps to explain why males are more criminal than females and why criminals tend to be more sexually promiscuous than persons in general. Emphasizes that crime is biologically “normal” (although regrettable) rather than pathological.

Gives some the impression that because crime is considered “normal,” it is justified or excused. Makes assumptions about human nature that may or may not be true. While recognizing that culture is important, it tends to ignore it.


Chapter 8 biosocial approaches

Table 8.1 Summarizing Biosocial Perspectives and Theories

Theory Key Concepts Strengths Weaknesses

Evolutionary psychology perspective

Human behavior is rooted in evolutionary history. Natural selection has favored victimizing tendencies in humans, especially males. These tendencies arose to facilitate mating effort but are useful in pursuing criminal behavior as well. Criminals emphasize mating effort over parenting effort more than males in general.

Ties criminology to evolutionary biology. Mating effort helps to explain why males are more criminal than females and why criminals tend to be more sexually promiscuous than persons in general. Emphasizes that crime is biologically “normal” (although regrettable) rather than pathological.

Gives some the impression that because crime is considered “normal,” it is justified or excused. Makes assumptions about human nature that may or may not be true. While recognizing that culture is important, it tends to ignore it.

Neuroscience perspective

Whatever its origin, all stimuli are channeled through the brain before given expression in behavior. The development of the brain is strongly influenced by early environmental experiences, especially those involving nurturance and attachment.

Shows how environmental experiences are physically “captured” by the brain. Emphasizes the importance of nurturing for optimal development of the brain. Uses sophisticated technology and provides “harder” evidence.

High cost of neuroimaging studies is a drawback. Very small samples of known criminals are often used, thus limiting generalizations. Linking specific brain areas to specific behaviors is problematic.


Chapter 8 biosocial approaches

Table 8.1 Summarizing Biosocial Perspectives and Theories

Theory Key Concepts Strengths Weaknesses

Evolutionary

neuroandrenic

theory

Androgens alter the brains of males to make them more prone toward status striving, especially following puberty. Crime is a crude expression of status striving.

Integrates evolutionary and neuroscience concepts. Explains why sex, age, and social status are related to violent and property crimes, as most studies have shown.

Does not explain most forms of victimless crimes. Does not pay sufficient attention to specific environmental factors.

Reward dominance theory

Behavioral activating system (BAS) and behavioral inhibiting system (BIS) are dopamine and serotonin driven, respectively. Among criminals, the BAS tends to be dominant over the BIS. This BIS/BAS imbalance can lead to addiction to many things, including crime.

Explains why low serotonin is related to offending (low serotonin = low self-control). Explains why criminality is persistent in some offenders because they develop a taste for the “thrill of it all.”

The neurological underpinnings of the BAS and BIS have been difficult to precisely identify. Studies difficult and expensive to conduct.

Prefrontal dysfunction

theory

Frontal lobes control long-term planning and temper emotions and their expressions. Criminals have frontal lobes that fail to function as they do in most people, especially in terms of inhibiting actions that harm others.

Explains why moral reasoning is inversely related to involvement in persistent criminality. Explains why criminality has been linked to frontal lobe damage and to abnormal brainwaves.

Dysfunction of the prefrontal lobes remains difficult to precisely measure, even with fMRI scans. Same sampling difficulties noted for the neurosciences in general.


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