Psychological research has attempted to determine the relationships between crime and psychological variables primarily through correlation methods, which make it difficult to establish causation because the different possible effects frequently overlap.
In this article, we will analyze theoretical propositions and empirical studies around the relationship between crime and personality and intelligence. However, as we will see, psychosocial and economic factors seem to have a relatively important weight in the emergence of antisocial behavior.
Relationship between crime and personality
Several authors have linked personality traits to crime. It should be noted Eysenck’s theory of criminal personality, According to which criminal conduct is due to errors in the acquisition of moral conscience.
This would be developed by conditioning to avoid the punishment and anxiety associated with antisocial behavior.
According to Hans Eysenck, extroverted people have a low level of cortical activation, which leads them to constantly seek stimulation; this can be associated with certain criminal behavior, such as substance use, which in turn promotes antisocial behavior.
This author’s research also reveals that extroverts have more difficulty conditioning stimuli and responses. Therefore, in these cases, the deficits in the conditioning of moral behavior could be partly explained from a biological point of view.
Eysenck theorized that emotionally unstable people also have difficulty conditioning themselves, as they react intensely and sustainably to stressful stimuli. Thus, they probably detect to a lesser extent the difference between their normal physiological responses and those due to aversive conditioning.
The trait Eysenck called “psychoticism” takes up hostile and aggressive behavior at the interpersonal levelIt is therefore not surprising that people with high scores in this temperamental dimension engage in more frequent criminal behavior, which also tends to be more violent and repetitive.
Like extraversion, psychoticism is linked to the need for continuous stimulation. Zuckerman proposed that impulsiveness and sensation seeking are more relevant, two characteristics that Eysenck encompasses in this macro trait.
4. Impulsivity and self-control
People with self-control deficits they find it hard to delay gratificationIn other words, to resist the temptation to get a booster in exchange for another later. Juvenile offenders have been found to tend to be impulsive, which may be due to deficits in learning reflective behavior (think before you act).
5. Search for sensations
Zuckerman drew attention to this personality trait and popularized its use in different fields. The search for sensations, associated with extroversion and psychoticism, is defined as active predisposition to feel emotions and stimuli we, Although they involve risk taking.
6. Low empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and identify with the emotions and cognitive content of others. The absence of discrimination from foreign mental states facilitates the commission of crimes that harm others; the lower the degree of empathy, the less emotional the victim’s suffering has for the person.
How does intelligence influence crime?
In the past, authors like Lombroso and Goring have claimed that the criminal conduct was mainly due to cognitive deficits. Moreover, according to the theory of degeneration, “moral weakness” was transmitted and intensified from generation to generation, which in turn explained social classes. Fortunately, these assumptions have been largely abandoned.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the correlation between crime and IQ is significant but weak, About -0.2. This indicates that, on average, people who commit crimes are slightly less intelligent than those who don’t – or those who do and go undiscovered.
More precisely, it was found that there is a particularly high number of people who have committed crimes of the order of 80 to 90 CI points, which corresponds to the limit intelligence, that is to say below of the average, but without reaching intellectual disability.
However, in these cases, the intelligence scores they are generally weaker in verbal CI than manipulative, Which tends to be normal. More specifically, verbal, visuospatial and visomotor deficits frequently occur; it has been suggested that these results actually indicate slight cognitive deficits due to socio-economic variables
Personal history and socio-economic factors
Despite the human tendency to give unicausal and internal explanations for behavior, the truth is that social and economic conditions are more relevant in the emergence of criminal behavior. However, the weight of capricious and cognitive factors should not be underestimated.
The first personal history is essential to explain the crime. Children of abusive parents neglect their responsibilities, Do not develop a secure attachment or use alcohol, and drugs are more likely to reinforce antisocial behavior. The same goes for families in conflict and many children.
In addition, as is evident, young people born into neglected families or in disadvantaged environments are less likely to adapt satisfactorily to society (for example, to find decent employment) and to reorient their maladaptive behaviors. This is also influenced by negative modeling by important people.
Some psychosocial factors particularly relevant to crime are unemployment and learning difficulties, Especially those related to reading. Children with cognitive development delays and school problems are more likely to end up with low IQ and to commit crimes.