Crime and Intelligence

1 January 2017

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Criminologists have debated back and forth the question, “Does a person’s IQ level really affects their probability of committing a crime and if lack of intelligence increases criminal behavior throughout a person’s life. ” Some believe that IQ is a more important variable than race, social or economical class in foretelling criminal behavior. The theory of crime being linked to a person’s intelligence says that if IQ does not affect the probability of crime, it can have a chain reaction.

Academic incompetence as a child is the stressor for many adult criminals; children with low IQs tend to have difficulties in school and in performing tasks that their peers can do. Criminologists believe that IQ affects future criminal behavior because many criminals do crimes out of “necessity” for example, the child who failed all his classes and struggles even further into his academic career may drop out, this person has to work for minimum wage or take the easy way out and submit to crimes like burglary, robbery and shoplifting however these criminals are more likely to get caught and sent to prison.

However one can argue that low IQ cannot determine a possible increase in chance criminal behavior because after all most crimes are rational. Many types of crimes are crimes that are carefully planned and thought out for example fraud, identity theft, non-negligent manslaughter/ voluntary murder, burglary, assault, psychopaths, cases of arson, insurance scams and the list can go on and on to a numerous amount of other crimes. To burglaries a home the burglar has to make sure he studies his target like the time the residents are and are not home, if they have an alarm system or a guard dog, is any one patrolling the area.

Some criminologists argue that a person with a low IQ cannot be able to plan so well even the chance of not being caught and if the satisfaction derived from the crime is worth the risk. These examples are a product of rational thought, and to be logical and rational IQ cannot be that damaged. More study has to be done to decide the IQ’s effect on criminal behavior. Arguments have technically just assumed that low IQ increases criminal behavior; however, it is possible that in various ways high IQ actually increases criminal behavior.

A vast amount of studies have shown that violent behaviors, delinquency and adult crime are linked to low IQ’s (Bower,1995). Goodman concluded, after testing children between the ages of 5 and 15, excluding children with hyperactivity, psychosis or retardation, that children with lower IQ’s seem to have more tendencies towards conduct disorders than those who did not or had “normal” IQ’s (Goodman,1995). The theory about low IQ’s does leave open for idea of maybe it’s just that their low IQ’s leaves them more vulnerable to get caught and imprisoned.

For example, more-intelligent individuals may feel greater confidence of committing crimes without getting caught and feel like they’re “above the law” or invincible, which in theory may lead to more criminal behavior. More-intelligent individuals might also have more opportunities for some crimes, such as white-collar crime. An example of high intelligence in crime can be seen in 1941, Hervey Cleckley’s published book The Mask of Sanity. His book was the first to discuss the psychiatric description of psychopaths as dangerous people because many were violent or guilty of white-collar crimes.

Cleckley concluded that many psychopaths carry common traits such as, “Exhibit shallowness and narcissism, callousness and lack of empathy, impulsiveness, a lack of remorse, and egocentricity” (Johansson & Karr, 2005) After studying 370 men he noted that psychopaths and non-psychopaths we not different in overall levels of intelligence, however they did differ in how high intelligence was related to the severity of their crime. Cleckley commented that the high intelligence just enhanced the psychopaths’ ability to in being destructive.

Cleckley wanted to understand why normal people didn’t evolve into psychopaths as well and his findings made him conclude that the high intelligence in relation to impulses and irresponsibility didn’t allow them (psychopaths) to succeed as most law abiding people do. Sigmund Freud developed the psychoanalytic theory, this theory states that all humans have natural drives and urges that are hidden in the unconscious. This means that all humans have criminal tendencies.

According to Freud because we socialize as children the urges are put under control by our unconscious; also our development as children helps control urges. Freud believed that the most common factor that contributes to criminal behavior was the child’s identification with her or his parents. According to Freud children who had problem in socialization developed personality disorders that causes her or him to direct antisocial impulses inward or outward.

The child who directs them outward becomes a criminal, and the child that directs them inward becomes a neurotic. Goleman,1984) According to this approach, criminal behavior results from the way in which people organize their thoughts about morality and the law. During middle childhood, children are at the first level of moral development. People who do not progress through the stages may become delinquents. If we base our ideas on Freud criminal intelligence begins as a child, if the child is raised in a home where the parents are violent, anger or allow the child to see the violence can be the solution to some problems.

Everything we learn as children begins with our parents or legal guardians. For example, a child who is consistently punished for inappropriate behavior by physical or psychological abuse and tend to only gain attention from their parents because of bad behavior and receive no praise for good behavior, overtime the child will develop an unpleasant physiological and emotional response whenever they think about committing an inappropriate behavior.

Generally this may seem like a good thing because it should stop the child from doing wrong behavior however the anxiety and guilt that arise from this result in the development of a conscience. It is also believed that criminal tendencies may be inherited and passed down to the offspring’s by their parents during reproduction. People maintain their criminal behavior due to consequences or reward they think the benefit. It is argued that criminal and noncriminal behavior has gains and losses.

If the gains that result from committing the crime for example money out weigh being punished then the person will commit the criminal act. The immediate rewards that result have a lot to do with criminal behavior. If the criminals reasoning for committing a crime or the punishment that may result from committing the crime, or the time that it would take to earn the reward by noncriminal means, they will probably do it. They take the lazy way out; some persons may be more prone to committing criminal acts than others for example a crack addict robbing a person who has a nice ring on the bus or train.

To some criminals the gains associated with committing the crime may help to restore a person’s feelings of being treated unjustly by society. Factors such as intelligence and arousal determine how a person weighs the gains and losses associated with committing a criminal act. Physiological arousal determines the ease in which people are; therefore, people who are unable to associate negative feelings with committing crime will not be deterred from committing criminal acts.

Some argue that impulsive, poorly socialized children of low intelligence are at the greatest risk of becoming criminals. One of the reasons people believe that criminal behavior is a hereditary trait is because it is believed that if a parent or both parents has criminal past or criminal tendencies the child will most likely pick up on this and continue the cycle. Dr. Mednick said that he did not believe that criminal behavior itself was inherited.

Rather, he theorized, what can be inherited are the biological factors that might be associated with crime and a life of crime. Dr. Mednick studied the life histories of 14,427 Danish children who were adopted by mostly middle-class, law-abiding families soon after birth from 1924 to 1927. For example, among sons placed with adoptive parents having no criminal backgrounds, 20 percent of those whose biological fathers were criminals were found to have had criminal convictions, but only 13. 5 percent of those born of noncriminal fathers did (Reinhold,1982).

Studies have only demonstrated that low intelligence and crime occur together frequently; they have not demonstrated that low intelligence is the cause of crime.

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