Introduction to Psychology and Criminology   no comments

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This week I have started my reading on Psychology and Criminology, which are the two disciplines that I am going to explore for my review.

Psychology – What is Psychology?
Psychology can be defined as the science of behaviour – the discovery and explanation of the cause of certain behaviours. Psychologists try to explain these behaviours by studying its causes, to explain why people do what they do. Some psychologists also examine the behaviour of animals to help provide insights into factors that can affect human behaviour. Different psychologists study different behaviours and are interested in different groups of causes, but how do we study and explain human behaviour? In order to understand why we do what we do, psychologists must become familiar with what people do, and look at the events responsible for a behaviour’s occurrence. Carlson et al (2007) have recognised 12 approaches to understanding the causes of human behaviour:
Physiological psychology– examines the role of the brain in behaviour

Comparative psychology – explores the behaviour of various species of animals to try and explain the behaviour in terms of evolution.

Behaviour analysis – consider the effects of the environment on behaviour

Behaviour genetics – look at the responsibility of genetics in behaviour

Cognitive psychology – explores complex human behaviours and mental processes e.g. perception, attention, learning, memory etc.

Cognitive neuroscience – works alongside cognitive psychology and physiological psychology and is concerned with looking at brain mechanisms that are responsible for cognition.

Developmental psychology – is concerned with the development of behaviour throughout a person’s life. Includes looking at physical, cognitive, emotional, and social developments.

Social psychology – studies the results/effects that a person’s behaviour has on others.

Personality psychology – looks at individual differences in patterns of behaviour and a person’s temperament.

Evolutionary psychology– is the study of natural selection and how this can influence behaviour.

Cross cultural psychology – studies the consequences of how culture can affect behaviour.

Clinical psychology – is concerned with looking at mental disorders, problems of adjustment and the causes and treatments of these.

By studying behaviour and its causes – we can look at how to solve problems and simply fulfil our need to understand what makes human beings work. For example, excessive smoking, obesity, poor exercise, bad diet, and heavy drinking are all responsible for many illnesses, which could be reduced and peoples living conditions increasingly improved if people changed their behaviour. Psychologists can therefore, apply their knowledge of behaviour to a range of problems and provide a solution. In this way it can be considered a profession. For example school psychologists try to help students with behavioural problems, and consumer psychologists provide advice to organisations that offer a service or buy and sell goods.

Carlson, N. et al (2007) Psychology: The Science of Behaviour. 6th Edition. USA: Pearson

For my reading next week I am hoping to look at research methods used by psychologists and start to look at evolution, genetics and behaviour. I also hope to start my reading of the book: The Psychology of the Internet by Patricia Wallace.

Criminology – A Brief History
The idea that criminals are driven by forces beyond their control still exists today. However, prior to the modern age of crime and criminal behaviour, it was proposed that criminals were possessed by demons that forced them to do bad things beyond their control – known as ‘Demonology.’ There was little written law, and crime was associated with sin. This meant that the state felt they had ‘moral authority’ to use horrible methods of torture and punishment. The accused were subjected to closed trials, torture and harsh punishments – which were often inflicted on the physical body of the accused. The accused also faced the possibility of being tortured to death. Little use was made of imprisonment as prisons were mostly used for holding suspects and offenders before they went to trial or punishment. It was thought that the threat of cruel punishments administered in public and with theatrical emphasis would act as a deterrent for the ‘dangerous’.

The criminal justice system was ‘chaotic, non-codified, irrational, irregular and at the whim of individual judgement.’ It was only with the emergence of the modern era and new methods of viewing and responding to the world, that lead to a breakthrough in the way that crime and criminal behaviour was dealt with.

Defining the extent of crime

Crime can include a range of different activities such as fraud, theft, robbery, assault, corruption, rape, and even murder. Crime can often be thought of as the doing of wrong, but not all activities that some might consider immoral, are thought of as crimes. For example, parking in a disabled space when your not actually disabled is immoral but isn’t considered to be a crime. The easiest way to define crime is an act that breaches criminal law. This can be problematic because in English law some offences (i.e. murder, serious assault), re seen as ‘real’ crimes and can be described as ‘mala in se.’ But some crimes are ‘mala prohibita’ prohibited because they are for the protection of the public.

As with everything, legal definitions change over time and vary between different cultures. What may be legal in one country may be illegal in another. Crime can therefore be considered ‘part of a political process’ and a ‘social construction,’ which is increasingly seen in the media.

Explanations and research into criminal behaviour have emerged from studies which have been carried out on individuals from lower socioeconomic groups. It is considered this ‘dangerous class’ have been at the forefront of criminological thought since the start of modern society. But it is important not to forget the problem of what is known as ‘white collar’ crime or corporate crime which often involves a person of respectability and high social status.

Burke, R.H. (2005) An Introduction to Criminological Theory. 2nd Edition. Devlon: Willan Publishing.
For my reading next week I am hoping to look at models and traditions that attempt to explain crime and criminal behaviour.

Written by kd2v07 on November 6th, 2010

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