A Life of Crime? Could you go out tomorrow and embark on a life of crime? What would you do? How would you do it?
Learning Theory Criminal behavior is learned in a social context –Values, norms, motives, techniques –“We become the company we keep” Criminals are the same as everyone else –The difference lies in what they have learned, from whom, and in what contexts A reaction against biological determinism
Edwin Sutherland’s Differential Association Theory 1.Criminal behavior is learned… 2.In interaction with other people… 3.Particularly intimate groups (family and peers)
Differential Association Theory 4. Learning includes a.Techniques (important for some crimes) b.Motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes 5. Criminals are people who learn to define the legal code as unfavorable
The Heart of Differential Association Theory 6. Crime results from an excess of definitions favorable to law violations over definitions unfavorable to law violations (a ratio) - Depends, to a degree, on opportunities for associations present in the larger context
Differential Association Theory 7. Differential associations vary in frequency, duration, temporal priority, and intensity 8. Learning crime is the same as learning anything else 9. Criminal and noncriminal behavior are the result of learned needs and values (desire for material success)
Cheating on an Exam Can we explain cheating on an exam using differential association theory?
Limits of Differential Association Theory Difficult to test empirically Causal direction is difficult to show –Perhaps birds of a feather flock together? Depicts people as passive –Tabula rasa, de-emphasizes free will
Social Learning Theory What makes differential association work? –Sutherland: learned attitudes -> behavior –Not supported by War and Stafford (1991) Akers’ answer: Social Learning Theory –Behavior is influenced by its consequences –Rewards and punishments determine crime Soft behaviorism – cognitive appraisal
Four Principles of Social Learning Theory Differential association with others –We learn behaviors and norms Definitions –We learn moral attitudes about right & wrong –Include neutralizations & rationalizations Differential Reinforcement –Lifetime balance of anticipated or actual rewards and punishments -> probability of behavior Imitation –Explains onset of behavior, but not persistence
Questions How would social learning theory explain white collar crime? –Street crime, drug dealing, robbery –Sex crimes, rape, child molestation –Minor crimes, shoplifting
Policy Implications Informal interventions –Spending time with children –Putting kids in activities with good kids Formal interventions –Big brother / big sister –Behavioral modification – quit smoking –Token economy – prisons and psych hospitals