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Criminology Offender Decision-Making and Motivation
by
Volkan Topalli

Introduction

Though it may seem odd to think of it as such, breaking the law (i.e., criminality) is a social behavior, one that occurs through a process of decision making as do other social behaviors. Cognitivists regard decision making as a continuous process based on an individual’s interaction with the environment. Social scientists are concerned with the manner in which this process produces individual decisions, guided by logic and rationality. They see offender decision making as a problem-solving pursuit that ends when an acceptable or suitable solution to the decision maker’s dilemma is reached. Because the process is cognitive and individuated but embedded within a larger social and cultural context, questions about the nature of offender decision making lie at the core of what criminology is, and why it is a field of study rather than a discipline in and of itself.

General Overviews

Social cognitivists regard decision making as a continuous mental process that precedes behavior, based on an individual’s interaction with the environment. Social scientists are concerned with the manner in which individual decisions are guided by logic and rationality. They see decision making as a problem-solving pursuit that ends when an acceptable or suitable solution is reached. Breaking the law (i.e., criminality) is a social behavior that requires the decision-making process to be engaged just as do other social behaviors. Because the process is cognitive and individuated but embedded within a larger social and cultural context, questions about the nature of offender decision making lie at the core of what criminology is, and help to explain why criminology operates as a field of study—addressing criminal behavior from a variety of disciplinary perspectives—rather than a discipline in and of itself. Key contributions to the study of offender decision making come from Katz 1988, which explores how offender decision making is bound not only by the background factors we normally think of as related to crime (e.g., low socioeconomic status, lack of education, poverty), but also the foreground dynamics of crime (those aspects of the criminal opportunity that attract the offender to act at a given moment in time). Neal Shover (Shover 1996, Shover and Honaker 1992) added to this approach with his particular emphasis on how street life and street culture serve to shape offender decision making. A useful framework for understanding and researching the nature of offender decision making has been developed and promoted by Trevor Bennet, Richard Wright, and colleagues. It relies on a temporal analysis strategy to understand the nature of offender decision making situated within criminogenic contexts and the offender’s own background. Semi-structured interviews focus on four distinct, conceptualized categories: motivation (where the notion to commit an offense first came to the offender’s mind and why is does so), planning (the process of offense preparation just prior to the decision to commit a crime), enactment (those decisions and actions taken during the commission of a crime), and aftermath (those decisions, perceptions, and actions which take place immediately following the offense, and which may have consequence for future offenses). The strategy has proven to be empirically robust and applicable to a wide range of offending behaviors. As such, it has subsequently been used in a number of seminal studies of offender decision making related to burglary, such as Bennet and Wright 1984 and Wright and Decker 1996; and robbery, such as Wright and Decker 1997 and Jacobs, et al. 2000.

  • Bennett, T., and R. Wright. 1984. Burglars on burglary: Prevention and the offender. Hampshire: Gower.

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    The authors found that the decision to offend was based on an imminent need for money, which led to a scanning of vulnerable areas to locate a suitable target; that burglars were oriented toward environmental cues indicating occupancy, surveillability, accessibility, and security at the targeted property; and finally, that burglars demonstrated a systematic and rational approach to target selection.

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  • Jacobs, B. A., V. Topalli, and R. Wright. 2000. Managing Retaliation: Drug robbery and informal sanction threats. Criminology 38.1: 171–198.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2000.tb00887.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authors examine how active drug robbers (individuals who take money and drugs from dealers by force or threat of force) perceive, plan, and respond to the risk of dealer-victim retaliation in real-life settings and circumstances. Data were drawn from in-depth interviews with twenty-five noninstitutionalized, active drug robbers recruited from the streets of St. Louis, Missouri. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Katz, J. 1988. Seductions of crime: Moral and sensual attractions in doing evil. New York: Basic Books.

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    Katz argues that understanding crime requires beginning with a phenomenological study of the criminal event, the lifestyle of the perpetrators, and the thought processes and emotions (including the sensual characteristics of the criminal situation) immediately preceding and following a crime, all of which amount to the “foreground” of crime. Employs an inductive analytic strategy in an attempt to develop a grounded theoretical basis for explaining offender decision making.

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  • Shover, N. 1996. Great pretenders: Pursuits and careers of persistent thieves. Crime and Society. Boulder, CO: Westview.

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    This book provides an in-depth analysis of the characteristics of “persistent” criminals (in this case, thieves), who continue to commit burglary, robbery, auto theft, and ordinary theft despite previous attempts to desist or previous negative interactions with the legal system. The author employs a “crime-as-choice” framework and a life-course perspective to make sense of how desistence-resistant offenders continue their offending ways.

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  • Shover, N., and D. Honaker. 1992. The Socially Bounded Decision Making of Persistent Property Offenders. Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 31.4: 276–293.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2311.1992.tb00748.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An ethnographic study of criminal decision employing a sample of persistent property offenders. The authors argue that improved understanding of criminal decision making by persistent property offenders is gained by exploring how their utilities are shaped and sustained by their day-to-day lifestyle choices and characteristics. Lifestyles that emphasize hedonistic pursuits and short-term planning encourage the constant need for financial capital and an outlook on offending that discounts the real risks of crime. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Wright, R., and S. Decker. 1996. Burglars on the job: Streetlife and residential break-ins. Boston: Northeastern Univ. Press.

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    Authors studied 190 active burglars’ decision-making processes within the context of their street life culture. They present their findings in the areas of motivation, target selection (planning), techniques of entering and searching a targeted residence (enactment), and methods of selling stolen goods (aftermath), concluding with a discussion of the theoretical implications of their research.

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  • Wright, R., and S. Decker. 1997. Armed robbers in action: Stickups and street culture. Northeastern Series in Criminal Behavior. Boston: Northeastern Univ. Press.

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    The authors conducted interviews with active, noninstitutionalized robbers operating on the streets of St. Louis to understand their decision-making processes (from motivation and offense planning through enactment to the aftermath of crime) embedded within a dominant street culture emphasizing violence, conspicuous consumption, and retribution.

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Data Sources

Data for investigating the manner in which individuals make decisions about offending are available, but there are noteworthy limitations. Research on the topic does not easily lend itself to large-scale, quantitative, survey-based studies (but see below). The reason is that decision making is often studied as a series of processes, wherein each component or stage must be assessed and analyzed on an individual-by-individual basis. As such, a great deal of data on decision making is ethnographic (qualitative) in nature and rarely is representative of the overall population of offenders. However, such data are rich in contextual information, providing much information about the processes that take place before, during, and after the decision to commit a crime. Because a dedicated cadre of researchers have selected this topic as their research focus, a significant amount of such data is available through the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). Beyond that, there are some larger- scale sources of data capable of providing researchers with limited opportunities for studying offender decision making, including official and longitudinal survey data. The major drawback of such data sets is that they make it difficult to determine how offender decision making varies across different situations and contexts. Strengths of such data sources include their representativeness and size, which provide for quantitative analyses. Examples of official data sources include the National Crime Reporting Standard. Victimization and perpetration survey data has been obtained in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, British Crime Survey, and National Crime Victimization Survey. As mentioned previously, a key source of archived ethnographic data from past studies can be found at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research.

Background Versus Foreground Factors

Criminal behavior is the end product of a developmental process influenced by a variety of social and environmental factors. This process is shaped by the immediate social contexts of family, school, peer associations and other social institutions (including the criminal justice system). To the extent that such contexts are characterized by coercive interactions or criminogenic characteristics, individuals are more likely to adopt criminal decision-making processes (and ensuing behaviors). These more immediate contexts are concurrently shaped by larger economic and cultural trends that, over time and space, may serve to further promote offender decision making. Taken together, they form the background for criminal decision making and behavior to take place. However, while background factors help us understand why people do decide to engage in crime, they do not tell us why they refrain from deciding to engage in crime, or when they will commit crime. Even people who are habitual offenders spend the vast majority of time not committing crime. The situation in which crime occurs is shaped by a multitude of factors beyond those associated with the “background.” The foreground of the criminal event itself includes actual and perceived opportunities to offend, determined by the perceived risks and rewards associated with that particular crime at that particular time. Such opportunities are subject to the forces external to the offender as well as those within the offender (i.e., his mental state and attitude; see Cornish and Clarke 1986 and Katz 1988). Such mental states are influenced by the background factors but not solely determined by them. In some cases foreground is obvious. For example, Felson’s formulation of routine activities theory lays out clearly the foreground factors (a motivated offender, absence of a capable guardian, and suitable target) that will influence offender decision making (see Felson and Boba 2009). In other cases, the role of foreground factors is more esoteric and individuated. Such is the case with the formulation in Katz 1988.

  • Cornish, D. B., and R. V. Clarke. 1986. The Reasoning Criminal—Rational Choice Perspectives on Offending. Research in Criminology. New York: Springer-Verlag.

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    Features empirical papers on criminal decision making across a variety of offenses (shoplifting, robbery, burglary, drug abuse, etc.). Includes discussion of victim/target selection, crime desistence, offense specialization, and general theoretical issues, with a focus on the place of a rational choice perspective in theoretical criminology and the offender decision-making process.

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  • Felson, M., and R. Boba. 2009. Crime and everyday life. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    The authors emphasize that routine daily activities set the stage for illegal acts, describing the interplay between motivated offender, suitable target/victim, and the absence of capable guardians in influencing offender decision making at the moment.

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  • Katz, J. 1988. Seductions of Crime: Moral and sensual attractions in doing evil. New York: Basic Books.

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    Katz argues that understanding crime requires a greater emphasis on the “foreground” of crime. This requires studying the phenomenological characeristics of the criminal moment, the lifestyle of the perpetrators, and the cognitive and emotional state of the offender immediately preceding and following a crime, an approach that breaks with the traditional approach to studying crime that emphasizes “background” factors like age, gender, poverty, etc.. Katz follows an inductive analytic strategy in an attempt to develop a grounded theoretical basis for explaining offender decision making.

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Biology and Early Theoretical Perspectives

In the time since Beccaria, a variety of perspectives have been employed to understand how offenders engage in the decision to break the law. Early criminologists focused on biological and physiological explanations of crime. For example, anthropological criminology was an early form of criminal profiling that described offender decision making as a process based on the link between an offender’s personality, physical appearance, and offending behavior. With ties to the “sciences” of physiognomy and phrenology, criminal anthropology was strongly associated with the 19th-century Italian school of criminology featuring the works of such luminaries as Cesare Lombroso and Enrico Ferri. Lombroso, for example, believed criminals were born with inferior physiological characteristics that caused them to think and behave differently. He advanced the atavistic or hereditary notion of the “born criminal,” viewing criminality as emanating solely from within the offender, unrelated to contextual, structural, or social conditions (Lombroso 2006). Although Ferri was a student of Lombroso, he disputed Lombroso’s emphasis on physiological characteristics of criminals, choosing instead to develop notions of criminality based on the study of offender psychology. As such, Ferri 1917 focused on such things as offenders’ use of slang and their handwriting styles, as well as the impact of symbolism on criminal behavior (including that observed in literature and art). Though such ideas have largely been swept aside in favor of more positivist and ecology-based notions of crime, recent work has found some value in Lombroso’s notion of physiology effecting offender decision making, though not through the same biological mechanism espoused by early anthropological criminologists. For example, Mocan and Tekin 2010 finds that individuals viewed by others to be less attractive were more likely to engage in crime than those viewed as attractive. The authors assert that people maintain stereotypes about the degree to which unattractive people (vs. attractive people) engage in crime and that these beliefs impose a self-fulfilling prophecy on unattractive individuals that steers them toward criminality, and that attractiveness provides individuals with greater access to social capital that they can use to avoid crime.

  • Ferri, E. 1917. Criminal sociology. Gloucestershire, UK: Dodo, 2007.

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    Originally published in 1895. Ferri focused on the study of offender psychology rather than on physiology, as his mentor, Lombroso, had done. This book concerns itself with Ferri’s interest in offenders’ use of slang, their handwriting, preoccupation with secret symbols, and the influence of literature and art on offending. His work anticipated modern criminologists’ interest in morality, and the use of neutralizations and justifications for criminal behavior.

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  • Lombroso, C. 2006. Criminal man. Translated and edited by M. Gibson and N. H. Rafter. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    Originally published in 1876. Presents the author’s theory of the “born” criminal, which dominated thinking about the causes of criminal behavior during the late 19th and early 20th century. Lombroso relied on modern Darwinian evolutionary theory to argue the inferiority of criminals compared to “honest” people, with particular emphasis on how the physical attributes of criminals affected their decision making and choice of criminality.

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  • Mocan, N., and E. Tekin. 2010. Ugly criminals. Review of Economics and Statistics 92.1:15–30.

    DOI: 10.1162/rest.2009.11757Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzed three waves of Add Health data to find that being very attractive reduces a young adult’s (ages 18–26) propensity for criminal activity and being unattractive increases it for a number of crimes, ranging from burglary to selling drugs. Demonstrates that beauty may have an impact on human capital formation (such as education and socioeconomic advancement). Finds that attractiveness may influence social expectations and interactions, producing a self-fulfilling prophecy effect. Available online to subscribers.

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Individuated Theoretical Perspectives

A number of theoretical perspectives deal with the individuated nature of offender decision making. The common characteristic of these perspectives is that they primarily focus on the immediate factors that govern offender decision making, i.e., they address the foreground of criminality. As such, they tend to address the individual affective and cognitive components of offender decision making (though such perspectives may be grounded in or related to explanations focused on the structural and contextual factors that produce crime). Examples of such theoretical perspectives include, in Agnew 1992, the General Strain theory, which advances the notion that anomic conditions produce strains in individuals that influence their decision making toward crime through negative affect. The concept was recently expanded upon by Konty 2005, with the concept of microanomie, an individual state wherein offenders decide to offend when their value orientation is skewed toward self-interest rather than external social concerns. Values also play a role in subcultural theories, which argue that offender decision making is governed by the offender’s loyalty to oppositional or non-mainstream street culture (see Stewart and Simons 2006). A related line of argument, addressing how offenders adapt to the competing pressures of imposed mainstream and subcultural value systems by neutralizing their anticipated guilt over engaging in good behavior can be found in Topalli 2005. Conforming to subcultural beliefs and rejecting mainstream beliefs are in fact a rational process for offenders, made within specified criminogenic contexts and environments—see Paternoster and Pogarsky 2009. This work has also been applied to adapting routine activities theory to more completely predict the decision making of offenders for purposes of crime prevention, as in Felson and Boba 2009. A more conceptual discussion of rational choice issues in offender decision making related to deterrence can be found in the discussion in Jacobs 2010 of how offenders contemplate the outcomes of their decision to engage in crime, where deterrence refers to the offender’s perceptions of anticipated risks and rewards and deterrability refers to their capacity or willingness to perform the calculation itself.

  • Agnew, R. 1992. Foundation for a general strain theory. Criminology 30.1: 47–87.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1992.tb01093.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Agnew asserted that traditional strain theory required a revision that decoupled it from concerns over social class or culture and focused more on the interplay between self-generated norms and the immediate social environment. An individual’s failure to achieve positively valued goals, removal of positively valued stimuli, and exposure to negative stimuli all result in strain. Criminal decision making results from experienced anger and frustration. Strongly negative emotions are assumed to motivate the individual to engage in crime.

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  • Felson, M., and R. Boba. 2009. Crime and everyday life. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks CA: SAGE.

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    The authors emphasize that routine daily activities set the stage for illegal acts, describing the interplay between motivated offender, suitable target/victim, and the absence of capable guardians (controllers) in influencing offender decision making at the moment.

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  • Jacobs, B. A. 2010. Deterrence and Deterrability. Criminology 48.2: 417–441.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2010.00191.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Jacobs asserts that offenders decide to engage in crime when the expected rewards outweigh anticipated risks, with the assumption that increasing the risk will prevent most crimes. “Deterrence” describes the perceptual process by which offenders calculate risks and rewards prior to offending, while deterrability refers to their capacity and/or willingness to perform this calculation. Jacobs employs these concepts to adopt a utilitarian perspective on offender decision making. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Konty, M. 2005. Microanomie: The cognitive foundations of the relationship between anomie and deviance. Criminology 43.1: 107–132.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0011-1348.2005.00004.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Konty maintains that strain theory’s reliance on a purely affective mechanism makes it incomplete, arguing that anomie produces “microanomie,” a cognitive state that occurs when self-enhancing values are prioritized over self-transcending values. Draws on a sample of university students’ support of the association between dominant self-enhancing values and offender decision making. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Paternoster, R., and G. Pogarsky. 2009. Rational choice, agency and thoughtfully reflective decision making: The short and long-term consequences of making good choices. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 25.2: 103–127.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10940-009-9065-ySave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this quantitative piece, the authors outline four elements of thoughtfully reflective decision making indicative of that assumed by a rational choice perspective. They assert that it is a characteristic that varies both across and within persons over time, and assert that such processes serve to produce “good” (i.e., non-criminal) decisions. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Stewart, E. A., and R. L. Simons. 2006. Structure and culture in African-American adolescent violence: A partial test of the code of the street thesis. Justice Quarterly 23.1: 1–33.

    DOI: 10.1080/07418820600552378Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors draw on Anderson’s “code of the street” thesis, which combines structural and cultural explanations, to explain the high rates of violence among African American youth. Using two waves of data from 720 African American adolescents from 259 neighborhoods, they investigated whether neighborhood context, family type, and discrimination influenced adoption of the street code. They also assessed whether the street code mediated the effects of neighborhood context, family characteristics, and racial discrimination on violent delinquency. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Topalli, V. 2005. When being good is bad: An expansion of neutralization theory. Criminology 43.3: 797–836.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0011-1348.2005.00024.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study analyzes street offenders’ decision making through semi-structured interviews of 190 hardcore, active, noninstitutionalized drug dealers, street robbers, and carjackers to determine how they neutralize anticipated behavior to support their offending. Findings indicate that hardcore offenders strive to protect a self-image consistent with a code of the streets orientation rather than a conventional one. That is, they neutralize being good rather than being bad. Available online to subscribers.

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Gender-Based Theoretical Approaches

A significant body of work has developed addressing the gendered nature of offender decision making. This research has focused on how social and cultural gender dynamics and expectations affect the extent to which women participate in offending, the way in which they offend, and the impact gender expectations have on men in determining their patterns of offending. Jodi Miller’s work on women’s participation in street robbery (Miller 1998) paved the way for further research in this area and advanced the interests of those interested in the gendered nature of white collar crime (Klenowski, et al. 2011), street retaliation (Mullins, et al. 2006), and burglary (Mullins and Wright 2003).

  • Klenowski, P., H. Copes, and C. Mullins. 2011. Gender, identity, and accounts: How white collar offenders do gender when making sense of their crimes. Justice Quarterly 28.1: 46–69.

    DOI: 10.1080/07418825.2010.482536Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors, by analyzing the motivational accounts of male and female white-collar offenders, examine how gender constrains the manner in which individuals describe their crimes. When accounting for their crime, white-collar offenders draw on gendered themes to align their actions with cultural expectations of masculinity and femininity, suggesting that gender constrains the accounts that are available to white-collar offenders. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Miller, J. 1998. Up it up: Gender and the accomplishment of street robbery. Criminology 36.1: 37–66.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1998.tb01239.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the experiences of active, noninstitutionalized female and male street robbers recruited from the streets of St. Louis. Compares women’s and men’s accounts of why they commit robbery, as well as how gender organizes the commission of the crime. Results indicate that while women and men articulate similar motives for robbery, their enactment of robbery differs according to the practical choices female offenders need to make in what is a heavily gender-stratified street setting.

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  • Mullins, C. W., and R. Wright. 2003. Gender, social networks, and residential burglary. Criminology 41.3: 813–840.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2003.tb01005.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors acknowledge that street life is highly gendered, and that this serves to marginalize women’s access to criminal networks and participation in related activities. The authors analyzed in-depth, semi-structured interviews with eighteen female and thirty-six male active residential burglars to examine the ways in which gender structures have access to, participate in, and potentially desist from residential burglary. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Mullins, C. W., R. Wright, and B. A. Jacobs. 2006. Gender, streetlife and criminal retaliation. Criminology 42.4: 911–940.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2004.tb00540.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traditionally, work on offender decision making and retaliation has failed to consider whether and how gender structures this behavior. The authors address this gap through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with forty male and twelve female street offenders who recently engaged in retaliatory violence, to examine the ways in which gender shapes vengeance. Available online to subscribers.

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Research

There are a variety of challenges to investigating and understanding offender decision making. Research on the topic does not easily lend itself to large-scale, quantitative, survey-based studies since decision making is, at its core, an individual process. Researchers have relied primarily on ethnographic investigations of how criminals decide to offend. Their logic is that offenders represent a small minority of the general population and are thus not accessible through typical large-scale questionnaires or surveys. Recent examples of qualitative research are directed toward understanding specific types of crime and associated policy outcomes. This includes research on adapting crime control policy based on ethnographic interviews with persistent thieves, as in Shover and Copes 2010 (see also Copes and Vieraitis 2009), as well as research on how rational choice theory explains how women make decisions about engaging in crime (Ajzenstadt 2009), the impact of drug misuse on offender decision making (Bennett and Holloway 2009), and the impact of co-offenders on the decision to engage in robbery (Alarid, et al. 2009). Included in these interview-based works are those that address conceptual and methodological issues of studying offender decision making. However, research on offender decision making is not limited to purely qualitative works. A number of good projects have tackled the issue using experimental methodology. For example, Topalli 2005 conducted laboratory experiments to investigate how offender perceptual characteristics influenced their decision making with regard to violent offenses. More recently, multimethod approaches, relying on both qualitative, ethnographic interviews and quantitative analyses have been employed; see, for example, Brezina, et al. 2009, in which the authors investigate how anticipating an early death drove offenders to engage in dangerous decision making. Finally, there have been a number of studies analyzing the interview situation itself, with particular attention paid to the manner in which researchers and offender interviewees interact with one another and how the interview situation and resulting data are modified by that process. Sandberg 2009, for example, analyzes how offenders engage in different forms of discourse based on their audience (researcher vs. co-offenders) in describing their decision-making processes. Cowburn 2010 provides an analysis and discussion of the pitfalls and challenges of interviewing offenders engaged in sensitive and sometimes ethically fraught offenses, such as sexual predation and assault.

  • Ajzenstadt, M. 2009. The relative autonomy of women offenders’ decision making. Theoretical Criminology 13.2: 201–225.

    DOI: 10.1177/1362480609102879Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author interviewed incarcerated females in Israel to determine the extent to which they were active, rational agents in choosing criminality. Found that women actively sought normative means to satisfy their feelings of belonging, gain economic benefits and feel safe, and fulfill normative social expectations. They further found that women turned to major social institutions to provide the means to realize these goals. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Alarid, L. F., V. S. Burton Jr., and A. L. Hochstetler. 2009. Group and solo robberies: Do accomplices shape criminal form? Journal of Criminal Justice 37.1: 1–9.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2008.12.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors investigate the effects of co-offenders on criminal decisions. Drawing on individual interviews with convicted robbers, offenders who committed their crime alone were compared with those who co-offended. Findings revealed that group interaction shaped the decision to commit crime by increasing planning and the sense of control that offenders experienced during the robbery. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Bennett, T., and K. Holloway. 2009. The causal connection between drug misuse and crime. British Journal of Criminology 49.4: 513–531.

    DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azp014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors address Goldstein’s (1985) tripartite model of the relationship between drugs and crime that divides explanations into economic-compulsive, psychopharmacological, and systemic. They did so by interviewing drug-misusing offenders serving prison time in the United Kingdom. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Brezina, T., E. Tekin, and V. Topalli. 2009. Might not be a tomorrow: A multi-methods approach to anticipated early death and youth crime. Criminology 47.4:1091–1129.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2009.00170.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors employ a multimethod approach, involving the simultaneous analyses of national survey data and in-depth interviews with active street offenders, to explore how the anticipation of early death, or a sense of “futurelessness,” effects youth offenders’ decision making. Findings demonstrate that the more they anticipate an early death, the more likely it is that they will engage in high-risk, violent offending.

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  • Copes, H., and L. M. Vieraitis. 2009. Bounded rationality of identity thieves: Using offender-based research to inform policy. Criminology & Public Policy 8.2: 237–262.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9133.2009.00553.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors conducted semi-structured interviews with fifty-nine individuals serving time in federal prisons for identity theft. They explored how offenders’ experiences and life circumstances affected their subjective assessments of risks and rewards and thus facilitated the decision to engage in identity theft. Findings suggest that crime-prevention programs that are geared toward removing excuses and advertising consequences may be effective in deterring potential offenders. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Cowburn, M. 2010. Principles, virtues and care: Ethical dilemmas in research with male sex offenders. Psychology, Crime, & Law 16.1–2: 65–74.

    DOI: 10.1080/10683160802621974Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author considers ethical dilemmas associated with research with offenders, examining two issues: dealing with the disclosure of previously undisclosed offenses and managing the distress of research participants during the interview. Within these areas there is discussion of ethical approaches to research that solicits information from offenders (in this case, male sex offenders) about their decision-making processes. The paper considers the relationship between epistemological positions and ethical positions through the analysis of a case study. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Sandberg, S. 2009. Gangster, victim or both? The interdiscursive construction of sameness and difference in self-presentations. British Journal of Sociology 60.3: 533–542.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-4446.2009.01254.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Conceptualizes two contradictory discourses used by drug dealers in a street drug market in Oslo, Norway. “Oppression discourse” includes personal narratives of unemployment, racism, and psycho-social problems. Drug dealers use the discourse to justify drug dealing and violence. “Gangster discourse,” on the other hand, includes personal narratives emphasizing how tough, smart, and sexually potent they are. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Shover, N., and H. J. Copes. 2010. Decision making by persistent thieves and crime control policy. In Criminology and public policy: Putting theory to work. Edited by H. Barlow and S. H. Decker, 128–148. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

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    Provides a review and discussion of the current landscape of research on the decision-making characteristics of persistent offenders. Relies on ethnographic data as well as offender histories.

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  • Topalli, V. 2005. Criminal expertise and offender decision making: An experimental analysis of how offenders and non-offenders differentially perceive social stimuli. British Journal of Criminology 45:265–295.

    DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azh086Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author conducted laboratory experiments to investigate how offenders’ perceptual characteristics influenced their decision making about violent offending. Street offenders were shown specially formulated video vignettes and asked to interpret what they saw. Results were compared to a group of demographic control (individuals from the same neighborhoods as the offenders who did not offend) and college controls.

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LAST MODIFIED: 05/25/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396607-0105

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