Explain various approaches to causes of criminal behaviour.
Social Learning Approach
This is an important approach to understand the causes of criminal behaviour
and focuses on the fact that people learn new behaviours through observational
learning of the social factors in their environment. If people observe positive,
desired outcomes in the observed behaviour, then they are more likely to model,
imitate, and adopt the positive behaviour themselves. Social learning theory is
derived from the work of Cornell Montgomery (1843-1904) which proposed
that social learning occurred through four main stages of imitation:, namely (i)
close contact,(ii) imitation of superiors (iii) understanding of concepts, (iv) role
model behaviour and all these together consist of three parts, viz. (i) observing,
(ii) imitating, and (iii) reinforcements.
In Social Learning and Clinical Psychology (1954), Rotter suggested that the
effect of behaviour has an impact on the motivation of people to engage in that
specific behaviour. People wish to avoid negative consequences, while desiring
positive results or effects. If one expects a positive outcome from a behaviour, or
thinks there is a high probability of a positive outcome, then they will be more
likely to engage in that behaviour. The behaviour thus is reinforced, with positive
outcomes, leading a person to repeat that behaviour.
Cognitive Approach of Bandura
Another approach is that of Albert Bandura (1977) who expanded on Rotter’s
idea, as well as earlier work by Miller & Dollard (1941), and is related to social
learning theories of Vygotsky and Lave. This approach incorporates aspects of
behavioural and cognitive learning.
Behavioural learning assumes that people’s environment (surroundings) cause
people to behave in certain ways. Cognitive learning presumes that psychological
factors are important for influencing how one behaves. Social learning suggests
a combination of environmental (social) and psychological factors as influencing
behaviour. Social learning theory outlines four requirements for people to learn
and model behaviour. These are (i) attention (ii) retention (remembering what
one observed) (iii) reproduction (ability to reproduce the behaviour), and (iv)
motivation (good reason) to want to adopt the behaviour.
Perceptual Control Theory
Control theory eventhough is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering and
mathematics, it deals with the behaviour of dynamical systems. The desired output
of a system is called the reference. When one or more output variables of a
system need to follow a certain reference over time, a controller manipulates the
inputs to a system to obtain the desired effect on the output of the system. A
related theory known as perceptual control theory has been used to model living
systems on the premise that outputs are manipulated to obtain the desired effect
on the input to the system.
According to perceptual control theory, behaviour is the control of perception
rather than the response to a stimulus. Research involving various types of control
systems that can be found in the brain demonstrates that control systems are not
solely the domain of engineers. If the concepts of homeostasis and homeorhesis
may be applied to internal environments, they can very effectively be applied to
the external environment of an organism.
The brain is a means toward transferring perceptual signals derived from the
external environment into the internal environment of billions of interconnected
neurons. Control systems within the brain and body are responsible for keeping
perceptual signals within survivable limits, regardless of the nature of the
environment that they are derived from. By integrating perceptual control theory
with research from the field of neuroscience, the future of human self awareness
might be realised by individuals willing to do so.
Sutherland’s Differential Association Theory
In criminology, Differential Association is a theory developed by Edwin
Sutherland proposing that through interaction with others, individuals learn the
values, attitudes, techniques, and motives for criminal behaviour.
Differential Association theory states that criminal behaviour is a learned
behaviour and learned via social interaction with others.
This theory focuses on how individuals learn to become criminals. It does not
however, concern itself with why they become criminals. Individuals learn how
to commit criminal acts, they learn motives, drives, rationale, and attitudes. It
appears socially easier for the individuals to commit a crime. They get inspired
in the processes of cultural transmission and construction. Sutherland had
developed the idea of the “self” as a social construct, that is a person’s self image
is continuously being reconstructed especially when interacting with other people.
Phenomenology is a method of inquiry based on the premise that reality consists
of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness
and not of anything independent of human consciousness. It originated in 1905
and put forward by Edmund Husserl. Phenomenology emphasises the immediacy
of experience. It is an attempt to isolate the experience and set it off from all
assumptions of existence or causal influence and lay bare its essential structure.
Phenomenology restricts the psychologist’s attention to the pure data of
consciousness, uncontaminated by metaphysical theories or scientific
assumptions. It emphasises on immediacy.
Phenomenology also encouraged people to debate the certainty of knowledge
and to make sense of their everyday experiences. People define their lives by
reference to their experiences, and then generalise those definitions to provide a
framework of reference for deciding on future action. From a researcher’s
perspective, a subject will view the world very differently if the person is employed
as opposed to unemployed. Similarly the person will view the world differently
if the person is in a supportive family or in a family abused by parents or others
close to the individual. However, individuals might respond differently to the
same situation depending on how their experience predisposes them to define
their current surroundings.
General Approach to Crime
The kinds of punishment given are surely influenced by the kind of society one
lives in. Though during ancient period of history punishment was more severe
as fear was taken as the prime instrument in preventing crime. But with change
in time and development of human mind the punishment theories have become
more tolerant to these criminals. Debunking the stringent theories of punishment
the modern society is seen in loosening its hold on the criminals. The present
scenario also witnesses the opposition of capital punishment as inhumane, though
it was a major form of punishing the criminals earlier.
As punishment generally is provided in Criminal Law it becomes imperative on
our part to know what crime or an offence really is. Crime is an act deemed by
law to be harmful for the society as a whole though its immediate victim may be
an individual. Let us say a murderer injures primarily a particular victim, but its
blatant disregard of human life puts it beyond a matter of mere compensation
between the murderer and the victim’s family.
Thus it becomes very important on behalf of the society to punish the offenders.
Punishment can be used as a method of reducing the incidence of criminal
behaviour either by deterring the potential offenders or by incapacitating and
preventing them from repeating the offence or by reforming them into law-abiding
citizens. Policies regarding theories of punishment are Deterrent, Retributive,
Preventive and Reformative.
Punishment, whether legal or divine, needs justification. Many a time this
punishment has been termed as a mode of social protection. The affinity of
punishment with many other measures involving deprivation by the state morally
recognised rights is generally evident. The justifiability of these measures in
particular cases may well be controversial, but it is hardly under fire.
The attempt to give punishment the same justification for punishment as for
other compulsory measures imposed by the state does not necessarily involve a
particular standpoint on the issues of deterrence, reform or physical incapacitation.
Obviously the justification in terms of protection commits us to holding that
punishment may be effective in preventing social harms through one of these
As punishments generally punish the guilty mind it becomes very important to
know what crime really is. But it is quite difficult on the part of the researcher to
say whether or not there must be any place for the traditional forms of punishment.
In today’s world the major question that is raised by most of the penologist is
that how far are present ‘humane’ methods of punishment like the reformative
measures successful in their objective. It is observed that prisons have become a
place for breeding criminals not as a place of reformation as it was meant to be.