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Evaluating Theories of Crime. What is a “Theory?”. A statement of set of statements about the relationships between 2 or more events In criminology? A theory predicts what will happen, not how the world should be . How do you know a “good theory” when you see one?.

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what is a theory
What is a “Theory?”
  • A statement of set of statements about the relationships between 2 or more events
    • In criminology?
  • A theory predicts what will happen, not how the world should be
how do you know a good theory when you see one
How do you know a “good theory” when you see one?
  • Akers’ 6 criteria for evaluating a theory

1. Logical Consistency

2. Scope

3. Parsimony

4. Testability

5. Fit with Empirical Evidence

6. Usefulness of Policy Implications

logical consistency
Logical Consistency
  • Clearly Defined Concepts
    • Concept = symbol/label that we apply to an abstract image
    • Examples?
  • Concepts must fit in a logical manner
    • BAD LOGIC: All crime is caused by imprisonment
scope not the mouthwash
SCOPE (not the mouthwash)
  • DEPENDENT variable
  • How “general” is your explanation?
    • Specific forms of crime/deviance?
    • All crime?
    • All crime, deviance, sin, and recklessness?
  • All else being equal, “Wider is Better”
parsimony
Parsimony
  • INDEPENDENT (predictor) variables
  • How complex is your explanation?
    • Parsimony: Low self-control is single cause of crime
    • Not: Crime caused by a combination of poverty, inequality, average daily temperature, intelligence, hair color, weight, daily stress…
  • All else being equal, more parsimony is better!
testability
Testability
  • A valid theory can be falsified
  • Non-falsifiable theories?
    • Tautological arguments (crime causes crime)
    • Vague and open-ended statements (Freud)
    • Must be observe/measure concepts (little green men)
is the theory correct
Is the theory correct?
  • Survive empirical scrutiny
  • Few theories are entirely correct or false
    • To what degree is the theory supported?
    • Preponderance of evidence support?
  • Incorrect theories must be modified or discarded
policy implication
Policy Implication
  • All crime theories attempt to identify the “causes” of crime.
    • Can the causes be reversed?
    • Does the theory translate into practice?
  • Example: Marxist theory of crime
flow chart for evaluation
Flow Chart for Evaluation

NO = Useless, stop here

  • Evaluate the
  • Following:
  • Scope
  • Parsimony
  • Policy Implications

Falsifiable?

Logical?

Yes

Empirical

Evidence?

YES

NO: Modify/Discard

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