1st Week of notes
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This 0 page Class Notes was uploaded by Natasha Carter on Saturday February 13, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to at Georgia State University taught by in Summer 2015. Since its upload, it has received 18 views.
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Date Created: 02/13/16
Lecture 1 What is Criminology A What is Criminology Criminology the scienti c study of why people commit crime as the textbook notes the word scientific is the key thing that distinguishes criminology from other types of examination of crime For instance from philosophical or legal discussions of crime or journalists reporting of crime The key is that criminology examines crime using the scientific method Example of the Scienti c Method in Criminology 1 Define a question Le Why do people commit crime 2 Observe the topic at hand in this case crime gathering descriptive data to better understand crime trends patterns etc 3 Form an explanatory hypothesis about why some people commit crimes 4 Conduct research testing this hypothesis U Publish the results of this research 6 Retest usually by other scientists but can also be the same researchers Through this process hypotheses can be rejected if tests do not support them with empirical evidence And then modified or totally new hypothesestheories can be developed and tested through the same process The key here is that science is used to develop and test ideas and the body of knowledge is constantly growing as more tests are conducted and more theories are altered or created A Broader Definition of Criminology Some would say the definition above is too limited a definition of the field of criminology Does the definition above cover all the classes offered in the Criminal Justice department here at GSU No as not all courses deal with why people commit crime some focus on responses to crime by the criminal justice system police courts prisons etc Thus some people divide our field into two subareas 1 Criminology study of why people commit crimes theory 2 Criminal JusticeStudy of response to crime practicepolicy In reality these go hand in hand and thus it s silly to try to split the field in two A theory is really only useful if it is applicable to criminal justice policy and practice And a criminal justice policy or practice is more likely to be effective if it s informed by theories of why people commit crime and is aimed at identified causes of criminal behavior Edwin Sutherlz1nd s Definition of Criminology In the first criminology textbook Sutherland put forth a three part definition of criminology that is still valid today Sutherland said criminology is the study of 1 The making of laws ie why certain things are made illegal 2 The Breaking of Laws includes the study of crime trends and patterns and the study of why people commit crimes 3 The reaction to the breaking of laws Study of how society responds to crime So covers all the criminal justice system elements crime prevention efforts etc This is still a solid definition of the field today Only major issue is the focus on law as criminology also deals with deviant behavior Deviant behavior acts that violate accepted social norms but are not illegal currently In this class we will be focusing on criminological theories which attempt to explain why people commit crimes Nonetheless it is important to keep this broader definition of criminology in mind as I want you all to be thinking of the policy implications of each theory as you read about them and learn about them in class B What is criminological theory Theory sets of concepts linked together by a series of statements to explain why an event or phenomenon occurs In other words a theory is a model that tries to explain why some phenomenon occurs So a criminological theory is a model that takes a group of concepts say variables like income relationships with family IQ and so on and uses them to explain why some people commit crimes and others don t So the two key elements of a theory are 1 The concepts involved in statistical terms these are the variables which are measures of the relevant concepts 2 The hypothesized relationships between those concepts that are said to cause the phenomenon of interest crime in our case a Examples disorderpan handlersFeardon t feel safewithdrawstaying insideSocial Controlmove awayCrime i All is relate in some way to crime C Paradigms of Criminological Theory Paradigm a paradigm is a category of distinctive theoretical models or perspectives on a certain topic There are four major paradigms of criminological theory with the first two categories being the two most dominant schools of thought about crime historically 1 The Classical School Assumes that human nature is hedonistic people are naturally bad and are out to do What s best for themselves Assumes humans have free Will and rationally decide What behavior to engage in based on What they think will maximize their pleasure and minimize their pain How to control people for commit crime 2 The Positive School AKA the positivist school Assume human nature is either naturally good or that we are born as blank slates rather than having free will behavior is determined through factors outside our control these include biological and psychological factors as well as sociological factors such as education family environment peer groups the neighborhood where one lives etc 3 The Con ictCritical Prespective this school of thought focuses on arguments that the criminal law is used as a restraint on others by those in power A way for the haves to keep the have nots down by defining their behaviors as criminal 4 Integrated theories this school of thought thinks that criminal behavior is very complex and can t be explained by the individual theories we have today Thus integrated theories seek to combine two or more existing theories into one new theory by explaining how the concepts from each relate to one another to explain crime These are often criticized for sometimes trying to integrate theories with different assumptions about human nature ie try to combine a classical school theory which assumes we have free will with a positive school theory which assumes behavior is caused by external factors Other ways to classify theories Level ofAnalysisfor what unit does the theory try to explain criminal behavior Micr0level ofanalysis theories at this unit try to explain why certain individuals commit crimes ie it hypothesizes that certain factors cause individual people to commit crime if they are subject to them Macr0level ofanalysistheories at this unit try to explain behaviors of groups ie theories that explain why certain countries or cities or neighborhoods have more crime than others Or certain demographic groups D What makes a good theory There are several factors we can use to evaluate the quality of a theory 1 Parsimony All other things being equal the simplest theoretical explanation is best 2 Scopescope indicates how much of a given phenomenon is attempted to be explained by the theory all other things being equal a theory with a larger scope is better ie a theory that adequately explains all crime is better than one that can only explain property crime 3 Logical Consistencythe specified relationships between constructs must make logical sense The textbook has a good example of a problem with logical consistency Cesare Lombroso theorized that some people were born criminals and then hypothesized that you could use tattoos as one way to identify these born criminals What s the logic problem with that hypothesis 4 Testability a good theory can be scientifically tested That is to say that the concepts involved can be measured and used in empirical tests of the theory 5 Empirical Validitya theory can only remain a good theory if it generates scientific evidence to support its hypotheses 6 Policy ImplicationsThe best theories will have all of the five above characteristics and will also be useful for informing policy and practice ie the theory provides insight to people working to prevent crime it shows causes of crime that they can target in their crime prevention efforts E The problem of causality The central challenge for any theory is being able to adequately prove causality that one variable causes change in another in our case that the predictor variables specified by the theory do actually cause increases in crime The challenge of proving causality is especially problematic in the social sciences where variables can t always be manipulated randomly like they can in say chemistry How do we prove that a predictor variable like poverty or IQ or the number of delinquent friends a person has causes them to commit crime It is very difficult and generally can t be done with 100 certainty in the social sciences But there are three key things that we use to try to show causality Requirements for Causality 1 Temporal Ordering simply put whatever conceptvariable we re theorizing to cause crime must happen before criminal behavior example crime rates may be higher among the unemployed however did the unemployment cause criminal behavior or did the criminal behavior cause the unemployment by making it harder for people with criminal records to get a job thus the key is that a theory has to show that whatever it is arguing to cause crime occurs before people engage in criminal behavior 2 CorrelationCovariation if a variable is going to be causally related to another variable it is first necessary to show that there is a relationship between them ie that a change in the predictor variable is associated with changes in the outcome variable crime ie unemployment goes up and then crime rates go up However this is not enough to show causation it merely shows there is a relationship of some kind between the two variables Example Ice cream sales rise in the summer Homicides increase in the summer Does this mean that eating ice cream causes people to commit murder 3 Accounting for Snuriousness spuriousness is the fact that a correlation between two variables may not be real and may actually be explained by some other variables not included in the model In the ice crime example the relationship between ice cream eating and murdering is spurious and can be explained by the hotter weather in summer people eat more ice cream when it s hot people are out and about more when it s warm may have shorter tempers in the heat etc Confounding variablesthis is how we refer to items like hot weather in the example above that can cause spurious relationships to be found if they are left out of statistical models In the social sciences we can t account for every possible variable like chemists can in their controlled laboratory experiments The best we can usually do is try to measure as many potential confounding variables as possible and include them as control variables in statistical tests of our theories Though true randomized experiments are sometimes possible and are the best test of theories when applicable
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