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Psychological factors in crime.

Psychological factors in crime.


Now that we have considered psychological problems in connection with testimony and crime detection, we turn to the criminal himself. The keynote of the present-day scientific attitude toward criminals is individualization; effort is made to discover what factors in the individual case led to the crime. In disposal of the case, again, the punishment or the ameliorative program is individualized. This modern attitude toward criminals is quite at variance with classical criminology. In earlier times it was merely a matter of what crime had been committed rather than who committed it. All horse thieves were equally culpable and received the same treatment. This simplified the administration of justice for it was merely necessary to establish guilt--further disposal of the case was routine. The procedure entirely overlooked such possible contributory factors as feeble-mindedness, emotional unstability, or extreme economic pressure. Modifications in this point of view began with the work of some Italian penologists in the middle of the nineteenth century who approached criminals from an anthropological standpoint, with the hypothesis that the criminal was a primitive type. An ape, for example, has a receding forehead so search was made for receding foreheads in criminals. Elaborate anthropological studies of bodily measurements were conducted, and, among other things, it was concluded that the criminal was an atavistic type. These penologists went much too far but they did make a real contribution: they called attention to the criminal as an individual. This paved the way for a psychological study of such individuals as soon as adequate techniques were available. The problem was, and still is, to determine whether there are certain types of persons who are more likely to commit crimes or, in the statistical sense, are predisposed. Mentally disordered and mentally defective individuals are of particular interest to the psychologist in this connection. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved)
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