Psychology News – Researchers show how personal preferences of impatient and risk-taking people lead them to commit crimes. They are enthusiastic that their study can help develop a fairer and more effective criminal justice system.
A new study explores how people’s psychological preferences make them commit crimes.
The research, conducted at the University of Copenhagen, unlinks criminal behavior from the causal factors of social and financial disadvantages. Instead, it connects people’s criminal action to their preference to commit crimes.
The researchers studied 7,000 young Danish men and asked them certain questions on an anonymous online platform. They examined the participants’ cognitive skills, socio-economic background, and other factors like school performance, residential area, stress factors, immigration status, etc. Finally, they asked about the participants’ personal preferences to become criminals.
The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that individuals with altruism, impatience, and greater willingness to take risks end up committing a crime.
However, different types of psychological factors are linked to different kinds of crime. For instance, risk-tolerance fuels criminal behavior in theft and property offence, whereas problems with self-control lead to violent, sexual, or drug offences.
The results also reveal that impatient and willing people who prefer to commit crimes are also more likely to respond less to penalties, such as prison sentences.
The study has great relevance for the criminal justice system, as it lays bare the inadequate role of punishment in correcting criminal behavior and the importance of work on crime prevention.
These results can also help in detecting and correcting early signs of criminal behavior. One of the lead researchers, Claus Thustrup Kreiner, elaborates, “Research suggests that it is possible to influence these behavioral parameters in children and young people, which can be very important in relation to the development of criminal behavior.”
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Epper, T., Fehr, E., Hvidberg, K. B., Kreiner, C. T., Leth-Petersen, S., & Nytoft Rasmussen, G. (2022). Preferences predict who commits crime among young men. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119(6), e2112645119. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2112645119