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PART II. Individual Difference Theories
Chapter 3: Biological Positivist Theories
1. Which of the following did not directly influence positivist criminology?
b. Evolutionary theory
c. The classical school
e. All of the above (Cp. 41)
2. Biological positivists assume that humans are:
a. naturally self-interested and hedonistic.
b. influenced by factors beyond their control.
c. primal and instinctive creatures.
d. both a and c.
e. all of the above. (Ep. 42)
3. Biological positivists assume that the law:
a. emerged through conflicts between different competing groups in society.
b. was capable of distinguishing between normal people and criminals.
c. represents consensus in society with regard to laws and norms.
d. is intended to maintain the status quo in society.
e. is manipulating by elites to maintain their power. (Cp. 43)
4. The theory of the atavistic man:
a. relied on research that involved correlating physical characteristics to criminal behavior.
b. claimed that criminality was the result of free will interacting with psychological factors.
c. suggested that incarceration be used to deal with crime.
d. is an early example of psychoanalytic theory in criminology.
e. all of the above. (App. 38, 4344)
5. According to William Sheldons work on somatotyping:
a. mesomorphs tend to be withdrawn and introverted.
b. criminals tend to have ectomorphic body types.
c. body type determines ones temperament, which influences behavior.
d. endomorphs tend to have lower IQ scores.
e. all of the above. (Cp. 44)
6. Which of the following is false with regard to the early research on genetics and criminal behavior?
a. It consisted of genealogical studies of families with many criminals.
b. It laid the groundwork for later work on IQ and criminality.
c. It had difficulties determining whether nature or nurture accounted for criminal behavior.
d. It consistently found that criminality was inherited and that criminals were born, not made.
e. None of the above. (Dpp. 4849).
7. Research examining Lombrosos theory of the atavistic man:
a. concluded that the theory was correct (i.e., Lombrosian indicators can accurately predict criminality).
b. suggested that chronic offenders were less evolved than other criminals and noncriminals.
c. found that violent criminals had ape-like features and were prone to mental illness.
d. was extremely rigorous, carefully conducted, and scientific.
e. none of the above. (Epp. 4950).
8. Twins studies:
a. emerged to disentangle the effects of biology and environment.
b. indicated that identical (or MZ) twins are three times as likely to commit crime as fraternal (or DZ) twins.
c. were undertaken to address shortcomings of adoption studies.
d. all of the above.
e. none of the above. (App. 4951)
9. Concordance rate:
a. is a tool for comparing behavior among twins.
b. refers to the likelihood that one twin will develop similarly to another twin.
c. is expressed as a percentage.
d. all of the above.
e. none of the above. (D pp. 5051)
True or False
1. Early criminological positivists were typically sociological theorists who sought to explain crime through social structural and cultural factors. (FALSEp. 38)
2. Phrenologists were some of the earliest proponents of treatment and rehabilitation. (TRUEp. 41)
3. Early biological positivists assumed that the criminal law was capable of distinguishing between normal people and criminals. (TRUEp. 43)
4. Biological positivists seek to explain criminality, criminal behavior, crime rates, and the emergence of the criminal law in their theories. (FALSEp. 43)
5. Studies indicate that genetic links to violent crime (e.g., murder and assault) are much stronger than links to other forms of petty crime (e.g., theft and burglary). (FALSEp. 43)
6. Enrico Ferris theory was ahead of its time because it focused on how criminality was shaped by interactions between biological and environmental variables. (TRUEpp. 4648)
7. According to Lombroso, criminal behavior is the result of free will and people use a hedonistic calculus to make decisions. (FALSEpp. 4344)
8. Structural brain abnormalities have been found in violent offenders and psychopaths. (TRUEp. 52)
1. List the assumptions made by biological positivist theories.
Biological positivists assume that basic human nature is primal and instinctive and must be held in check through socialization. Thus, these theorists view humans as being naturally self-interested and hedonistic. This view is sometimes referred to as a Hobbesian assumption; the belief here is that a strong authority is required to protect people from themselves and others. This is based on an evolutionary view of humans: People are animals and are subject to the same natural laws as animals.
2. How did the historical period in which these theories emerged shape their early development?
The origins of the positivist approach can be traced back to the Enlightenment, or Age of Reason. This era was characterized by a collection of political, philosophical, and religious upheavals that occurred during the 17th and 18th centuries that challenged the authority of the Catholic Church and the monarchies in Europe. Spurred by the invention of the printing press, many discovered philosophy and literature, shared new ideas, and rediscovered old ideas. The approach embraced by biological positivists must be seen as a reaction to the free-will perspective endorsed by classical school thinkers. Positivists attempted to explore these individual characteristics leading to criminality by applying the scientific method to crime.
3. What are the problem focus, scope, and level of explanation of these theories?
The problem focus of these early biological theories is clearly on individual criminality and criminal behavior. The scope of biological positivist theories is surprisingly broad, including both violent and nonviolent crime, and perhaps even white-collar crime. The level of explanation of these theories is clearly microscopic and individualistic since the theories focus on explaining individual criminality. As opposed to structural theories that consider broad or macro contexts, these theories focus on individual differences.
4. What social and historical factors gave rise to these theories?
This new interest in science gave rise to the three key forerunners to the early biological theories of criminal behavior. First, the early psychiatric work on moral insanity had an impact on biological positivism. Second, the emergence of physiognomy and phrenology preceded Lombrosos work on the criminal man; physiognomy and phrenology are the belief that behavior can be predicted through a persons physical appearance. Third, the emerging evolutionary perspective had a huge impact on the early biological positivists, especially the work of Charles Darwin.
5. What practical ramifications did these theories have?
The Good: These theories led to new practices, including rehabilitation programs, parole, probation, and the recognition of the social lives and experiences of those in conflict with the law. This opened up the criminal justice system to experts such as treatment specialists, probation workers, psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, criminologists, and others who often sought to help offenders with their problems.
The Bad: Some have argued that this emphasis on institutional control through the application of the scientific method had negative consequences for society. The individualistic form of biological positivism we have been discussing here lends itself well to political manipulation because it can shift the blame from the society and system to the individual. For example, biological positivists characterize criminals as possessing some characteristic that makes them commit crime. This focus on individual characteristics ensures that any environmental issues or social inequalities that help breed crime are ignored: If we hold the individual responsible, we dont have to change society.
The Ugly: Darwins cousin Francis Galton introduced the term eugenics. This term was based on work he did on inheritance of traits. He only advocated for positive eugenics, or the practice of encouraging fit people to have more children. Negative eugenics was co-opted for political purposes by reformers in the United States, Britain, Canada, and Germany; by the early 20th century, this movement had become very popular. Reformers suggested everything from work colonies to compulsory sterilization for the unfit. The unfit were defined as whomever society held hostility toward or looked down on: immigrants, minorities, criminals, the mentally ill, and the mentally challenged, to name a few. The Nazi regime escalated eugenics measures and started to execute the unfit, who they described as being life unworthy of life.
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