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Theory Construction and Evaluation

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1 Theory Construction and Evaluation
Quiz # 1 Theory Evaluation

2 What is Theory? Theory is a set on interconnected statements or propositions that explain how two or more events or factors are related to one another

3 The parts of Theory Concepts are building blocks of theory
A concept is an idea expressed as a symbol or in words S=d/t; height ;urbanization; poverty Concepts have two parts: A symbol (word or term) and a definition

4 The parts of Theory Assumptions are statements about the nature of things that are not observable or testable For example, the concept “book” assumes a system of writing, people who can read, and the existence of paper Without such assumptions idea of a book makes little sense

5 The parts of Theory “Racial prejudice” rests on several assumptions
People who make distinction among individuals based on their racial heritage, attach specific characteristics to membership in a racial group, and make judgment about goodness of these characteristics

6 Relationships Theories contain concepts, their definitions, and assumptions More specifically, theories specify how concepts are related to one another R. Merton’s anomie theory of deviance argues that people can understand nondeviance and deviance by considering two key concepts: the goals that a society defines as worth pursuing and the legitimate means to achieve these goals

7 Merton’s Theory Nondeviance occurs when people accept cultural goals and use a socially legitimate means to reach them Deviance occurs when this is not the case Merton made a causal statement (proposition) about the expected relationship among concepts (variables)

8 The aspects of Theory Direction of reasoning
The level of social reality that it explains Whether it is substantial or formal

9 Direction of theorizing
Deductive approach Inductive approach

10 Level of Theory Micro-level theory deals with small slices of time, space , or number of people Social Bond Theory (Hirschi, 1969) Meso-level theory attempts to link macro and micro levels or to operate at an intermediate level. Theories of social movements, organizations, or communities are often at this level (Merton’s theory) Macro-level theory concerns the operation of larger aggregates such as social institutions. Entire cultural systems, and whole societies

11 Macro/Micro relationship
Until recently, one the major division of 20th century in sociology theory was conflict between Macro/Micro Many argued polemically that one level is more fundamental than the other There is mutual interrelations between micro and macro levels

12 Social Structure and Social Learning Theory
Criminal Behavior Conforming Behavior Social Structure Social Learning Society Community Age Family Sex Peers Race School Class Others Differential Association Definitions Imitation Other Learning Variables Individual Behavior

13 Focus of Theory Substantive theory is developed for a specific area of social concern, such as delinquent gangs, strikes, divorce, or race relationships Formal theory is developed for a broad conceptual area in general theory, such as deviance, socialization, or power

14 Focus of Theory If you want to generate a substantive theory, then you should think of cases within the same substantive area. You might compare several gangs, but you do not have to theorize about deviance in general If you want to generate a formal theory, then you should compare cases within the same form area. You might examine various forms of deviance (medical, folkways, legal, etc)

15 Criteria for Evaluating Theory
Logical consistency Propositions of a theory have to be logically stated and internally consistent Theory that state that criminals are biologically deficient cannot claim that socialization is the cause of criminal behavior

16 Criteria for Evaluating Theory
The Scope of a theory refers to the range of phenomena which it proposes to explain A theory that accounts only for the crime of check forgery may be accurate, but it is obviously very limited in scope

17 Criteria for Evaluating Theory
Parsimony (simplicity of theory’s structure). The theory based on fewest assumptions and requiring the fewest propositions is considered the superior theory A theory which proposes that all crime are caused by low self-control is much more parsimonious than a theory that requires a set of multiple hypotheses to explain crime

18 Differential Association is based upon these nine postulates:
1. Criminal behavior is learned 2. Criminal behavior is learned in interaction with others persons in a process of communication 3. The principal part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups 4. When criminal behavior is learned, the learning includes techniques of committing the crime, which are sometimes very complicated, sometimes simple and the specific direction of motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes 5. The specific direction of motives and drives is learned from definitions of the legal codes as favorable or unfavorable to committing deviant acts

19 Differential Association is based upon these nine postulates:
6. A person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favorable to violation of law over definitions unfavorable to violation of the law 7. Differential associations may vary in frequency, duration, priority, and intensity. Priority - the age of children when first understand criminal behavior Intensity - the level of prestige associated with a person or group Frequency - number of contacts a person has with groups that condone criminal behavior Duration - the length of time the relationship will last and so its influence over the persons behavior

20 Differential Association is based upon these nine postulates:
8. The process of learning criminal behavior by association with criminal and anticriminal patterns involves all of the mechanisms that are involved in any other learning 9. While criminal behavior is an expression of general needs and values, it is not explained by those general needs and values, since non criminal behavior is an expression of the same needs and values

21 Criteria for Evaluating Theory
Testability by objective and repeatable evidence (theory which are untestable are not scientific) Example: If we states that low-self control is the failure to refrain from crime, we cannot state that low-self control is a cause of law violation

22 Untestable theories Propositions are open-ended so that any contradictory empirical evidence can be interpreted or re-interpreted to support the theory A theory may propose that males who robe banks are motivated by an unconscious impulse to resolve their guilt over their childhood sexual attraction toward their mothers

23 Untestable theories If research finds enough bank robbers who fit this description, then the theory is supported If research uncover that bank robbers claim their only motive is money then that does not mean that the theory is rejected Denial of these feeling by robbers supports the theory, because the same unconscious impulse that motivated them to rob also rendered them unconscious of their true motivation

24 Untestable Theories A theory may also be untestable because its concepts are not measurable by observable events If a theory proposes that people commit crimes because they are obsessed by invisible demons, there is no way to prove it Imitation in social learning theory is observable thing

25 Criteria for Evaluating Theory
Empirical validity means that a theory has been supported by research evidence None of the theories is found to be entirely true or false The questions is, what degree of empirical support does the theory have (weak or strong)

26 Criteria for Evaluating Theory
Usefulness and Policy implications Every criminological theory implies a therapy or policy The better the theory explain the problem, the better it is able to guide efforts to solve the problem

27 In class-assignment # 2(Extracredit)
Level of analysis (macro/micro/meso) Formal/Substantive Scope/Parsimony/logical consistency

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