Should the government control the content of TV shows and limit the amount of weekly violence? How can we explain the fact that millions of kids watch violent TV shows and remain nonviolent?
Psychological Trait Theories
The second branch of trait theories focuses on the psychological aspects of crime, including the associations among intelligence, personality, learning, and criminal behavior.
Psychological theories of crime have a long history. In The English Convict, Charles Goring (18701919) studied the mental characteristics of 3,000 English convicts.193 He found little difference in the physical characteristics of criminals and noncriminals, but he uncovered a significant relationship between crime and a condition he referred to as defective intelligence, which involves such traits as feeblemindedness, epilepsy, insanity, and defective social instinct.194 Goring believed criminal behavior was inherited and could, therefore, be controlled by regulating the reproduction of families who produced mentally defective children.
defective intelligence Traits such as feeblemindedness, epilepsy, insanity, and defective social instinct, which Goring believed had a significant relationship to criminal behavior.
Gabriel Tarde (18431904) is the forerunner of modern-day learning theorists.195 Tarde believed people learn from one another through a process of imitation. Tardes ideas are similar to modern social learning theorists who believe that both interpersonal and observed behavior, such as a movie or television, can influence criminality.
Since the pioneering work of people like Tarde and Goring, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals have long played an active role in formulating criminological theory. In their quest to understand and treat all varieties of abnormal mental conditions, psychologists have encountered clients whose behavior falls within categories society has labeled as criminal, deviant, violent, and antisocial.
This section is organized along the lines of the predominant psychological views most closely associated with the causes of criminal behavior. Some psychologists view antisocial behavior from a psychoanalytic or psychodynamic perspective: their focus is on early childhood experience and its effect on personality. In contrast, behaviorism stresses social learning and behavior modeling as the keys to criminality. Cognitive theory analyzes human perception and how it affects behavior.
psychoanalytic or psychodynamic perspective Branch of psychology holding that the human personality is controlled by unconscious mental processes developed early in childhood.
behaviorism The branch of psychology concerned with the study of observable behavior rather than unconscious motives. It focuses on the relationship between particular stimuli and peoples responses to them.
cognitive theory The study of the perception of reality and of the mental processes required to understand the world in which we live.
LO6Discuss the elements of the psychodynamic perspective
Psychodynamic (or psychoanalytic) psychology was originated by Viennese psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (18561939) and has since remained a prominent segment of psychological theory.196
For a collection of links to libraries, museums, and biographical materials related to Sigmund Freud and his works, go to http://www.freudarchives.org/.
Do you believe we are all guided by unconscious thoughts and feelings?
Freud believed that we all carry with us residue of the most significant emotional attachments of our childhood, which then guide future interpersonal relationships. Today, the term psychodynamic refers to a broad range of theories that focus on the influence of instinctive drives and forces and the importance of developmental processes in shaping personality. Contemporary psychodynamic theory places greater emphasis on conscious experience and its interaction with the unconscious, in addition to the role that social factors play in development. Nonetheless, it still focuses on the influence of early childhood experiences on the development of personality, motivation, and drives.
Elements of Psychodynamic Theory According to the classic version of the theory, the human personality contains a three-part structure. The id is the primitive part of an individuals mental makeup present at birth. It represents unconscious biological drives for sex, food, and other life-sustaining necessities. The id follows the pleasure principle: it requires instant gratification without concern for the rights of others.
id The primitive part of peoples mental makeup, present at birth, that represents unconscious biological drives for food, sex, and other life-sustaining necessities. The id seeks instant gratification without concern for the rights of others.
pleasure principle According to Freud, a theory in which id-dominated people are driven to increase their personal pleasure without regard to consequences.
The ego develops early in life, when a child begins to learn that his or her wishes cannot be instantly gratified. The ego is that part of the personality that compensates for the demands of the id by helping the individual guide his or her actions to remain within the boundaries of social convention. The ego is guided by the reality principle: it takes into account what is practical and conventional by societal standards.
ego The part of the personality, developed in early childhood, that helps control the id and keep peoples actions within the boundaries of social convention.
reality principle According to Freud, the ability to learn about the consequences of ones actions through experience.
The superego develops as a result of incorporating within the personality the moral standards and values of parents, community, and significant others. It is the moral aspect of an individuals personality; it passes judgments on behavior. The superego is divided into two parts: conscience and ego ideal. Conscience tells what is right and wrong. It forces the ego to control the id and directs the individual into morally acceptable and responsible behaviors, which may not be pleasurable. Exhibit 5.3 summarizes Freuds model of the personality structure.
superego Incorporation within the personality of the moral standards and values of parents, community, and significant others.
conscience One of two parts of the superego; it distinguishes between what is right and wrong.
ego ideal Part of the superego; directs the individual into morally acceptable and responsible behaviors, which may not be pleasurable.
Psychosexual Stages of Human Development The most basic human drive present at birth is eros, the instinct to preserve and create life. The other is the death instinct (thanatos), which is expressed as aggression.
eros The instinct to preserve and create life, a basic human drive present at birth.
thanatos According to Freud, the instinctual drive toward aggression and violence.
Eros is expressed sexually. Consequently, very early in their development, humans experience sexuality, which is expressed by seeking pleasure through various parts of the body. During the first year of life, a child attains pleasure by sucking and biting; Freud called this the oral stage. During the second and third years of life, the focus of sexual attention is on the elimination of bodily wastesthe anal stage. The phallic stage occurs during the third year, when children focus their attention on their genitals. Males begin to have sexual feelings for their mothers (the Oedipus complex) and girls for their fathers (the Electra complex). Latency begins at age 6. During this period, feelings of sexuality are repressed until the genital stage begins at puberty; this marks the beginning of adult sexuality.
oral stage In Freuds schema, the first year of life, when a child attains pleasure by sucking and biting.
anal stage In Freuds schema, the second and third years of life, when the focus of sexual attention is on the elimination of bodily wastes.
phallic stage In Freuds schema, the third year, when children focus their attention on their genitals.
Oedipus complex A stage of development when males begin to have sexual feelings for their mothers.
Electra complex A stage of development when girls begin to have sexual feelings for their fathers.
latency A developmental stage that begins at age 6. During this period, feelings of sexuality are repressed until the genital stage begins at puberty; this marks the beginning of adult sexuality.
Freuds Model of the Personality Structure
Personality StructureGuiding PrincipleDescription
IdPleasure principleUnconscious biological drives; requires instant gratification
EgoReality principleHelps the personality refine the demands of the id; helps person adapt to conventions
SuperegoThe conscienceThe moral aspect of the personality
SOURCE: Cengage Learning
If conflicts are encountered during any of the psycho-sexual stages of development, a person can become fixated at that point. This means, as an adult, the fixated person will exhibit behavior traits characteristic of those encountered during infantile sexual development. For example, an infant who does not receive enough oral gratification during the first year of life is likely as an adult to engage in such oral behavior as smoking, drinking, or drug abuse or to be clinging and dependent in personal relationships. Thus, according to Freud, the roots of adult behavioral problems can be traced to problems developed in the earliest years of life.
fixated An adult who exhibits behavior traits characteristic of those encountered during infantile sexual development.
The Psychodynamics of Antisocial Behavior Psychologists have long linked criminality to abnormal mental states produced by early childhood trauma. For example, Alfred Adler (18701937), the founder of individual psychology, coined the term inferiority complex to describe people who have feelings of inferiority and compensate for them with a drive for superiority. Controlling others may help reduce personal inadequacies. Erik Erikson (19021984) described the identity crisisa period of serious personal questioning people undertake in an effort to determine their own values and sense of direction. Adolescents undergoing an identity crisis might exhibit out-of-control behavior and experiment with drugs and other forms of deviance.
inferiority complex People who have feelings of inferiority and compensate for them with a drive for superiority.
identity crisis A psychological state, identified by Erikson, in which youth face inner turmoil and uncertainty about life roles.
The psychoanalyst whose work is most closely associated with criminality is August Aichorn.197 After examining many delinquent youths, Aichorn concluded that societal stress, though damaging, could not alone result in a life of crime unless a predisposition existed that psychologically prepared youths for antisocial acts. This mental state, which he labeled latent delinquency, is found in youngsters whose personality requires them to act in these ways:
latent delinquency A psychological predisposition to commit antisocial acts because of an id-dominated personality that renders an individual incapable of controlling impulsive, pleasure-seeking drives.
Seek immediate gratification (to act impulsively)
Consider satisfying their personal needs more important than relating to others
Satisfy instinctive urges without considering right and wrong (that is, they lack guilt)
The psychodynamic model of the criminal offender depicts an aggressive, frustrated person dominated by events that occurred early in childhood. Perhaps because they may have suffered unhappy experiences in childhood or had families that could not provide proper love and care, criminals suffer from weak or damaged egos that make them unable to cope with conventional society. Weak egos are associated with immaturity, poor social skills, and excessive dependence on others. People with weak egos may be easily led into crime by antisocial peers and drug abuse. Some offenders have underdeveloped superegos and consequently lack internalized representations of those behaviors that are punished in conventional society. They commit crimes because they have difficulty understanding the consequences of their actions.198
Offenders may suffer from a wide variety of mood and/ or behavior disorders. They may be histrionic, depressed, antisocial, or narcissistic.199 They may suffer from conduct disorders, which include long histories of antisocial behavior, or mood disorders characterized by disturbance in expressed emotions. Among the latter is bipolar disorder, in which moods alternate between periods of wild elation and deep depression.200 Some offenders are driven by an unconscious desire to be punished for prior sins, either real or imaginary. As a result, they may violate the law to gain attention or to punish their parents.
disorders Any type of psychological problems (formerly labeled neuroses or psychoses), such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and conduct disorders.
conduct disorder (CD) A pattern of repetitive behavior in which the rights of others or social norms are violated.
bipolar disorder An emotional disturbance in which moods alternate between periods of wild elation and deep depression.
According to this view, crime is a manifestation of feelings of oppression and peoples inability to develop the proper psychological defenses and rationales to keep these feelings under control. Criminality enables troubled people to survive by producing positive psychic results: it helps them to feel free and independent, and it gives them the possibility of excitement and the chance to use their skills and imagination. Crime also provides them with the promise of positive gain; it allows them to blame others for their predicament (for example, the police), and it gives them a chance to rationalize their sense of failure (If I hadnt gotten into trouble, I could have been a success).201