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How Psychological Research Has Helped in the Understanding of Criminal Behaviour Essay

Albert Bandura created the bobo doll experiment in 1961, the aim of this experiment was to show that if children where witnesses to aggressive displays by an adult of some sort they would imitate this behaviour when given an opportunity. The tested group contained 36 young girls and 36 young boys all aged between 4 and 5 years which was then divided into 3 groups of 24 – the aggressive condition, the non aggressive condition and the control group. The first group involved the children watching aggressive models, where the children where then subdivided by sex of the role model they were exposed to.

The second group involved the children watched non aggressive models, where the children were also subdivided by the sex of the role model which they were exposed to. This left the two conditioned groups subdivided into eight experimental groups each containing 6 subjects. They were 6 boys with the same sex model, 6 boys with opposite model, 6 girls with the same sex model and 6 girls with the opposite model. With 3 different groups, Bandura had created a complicated design for the study which resulted in 3 independent variables; the conditions the children were exposed to, the sex of the child and the sex of the role model.

Each child was then tested individually and the findings where then recorded. The experiment was done in an artificial environment and the researcher manipulated the independent variables into the conditions. In stage one of the experiment, the children were brought into the experimental room by the examiner. The room was set out as a nursery play room since that was the appropriate setting for the age of the children. One corner of the room had been arranged as a child’s play area consisting of a small table and chair and picture stickers.

In the opposite corner of the room was where the adult models would be followed by a small table and chair, tinker toy set and a five foot bobo doll. In the aggressive condition the model began by playing with the tinker toy set but after a couple minutes the model turned its attention to the bobo doll and was aggressive towards the doll in a very distinctive way. Were as in the non aggressive condition the model ignored the bobo doll and played with the tinker toys in a gentle manner. After 10 minutes the children where then taken into new room.

In stage two of the experiment the children were brought into a room with relativity attractive toys. In this room the children were to be subjected to mild aggression arousal. Once the children started to play with the toys, the experimenter took them off the children claiming they had been reserved for the other children. The children were then taken into the last and final room for stage three of the experiment. In this room the children were told they could play with any toys in there, the toys in stage three consisted of both non aggressive and aggressive toys.

The children were kept in the room for 20 minutes where observations were made through a one way mirror by judges. With the observation and findings of this experiment, three measures of imitation were obtained. For this study the observers’ looked specifically for responses from the children that were very similar to the display by the adult model. They included; imitation of physical aggression, imitation of verbal aggression and imitation of non verbal aggression.

With these observations, the researchers were able to consider which children imitate the models, which models the children imitated and whether the children showed a general increase of aggressive behaviour. The main findings of this study were that the children in aggressive model condition made more aggressive responses than the children in the non aggressive condition. They also found that the boys made more aggressive responses than girls, as well as the sex of the children being more aggressive if the model was of the same sex.

These findings support Bandura’s social learning theory that children learn social behaviour through observation learning, which children learn through imitation. This study has helped in the understanding of criminal behaviour as children learn through imitation and the environment which they grow up in have an effect on their behaviour. If a child has been brought up around abuse, criminal activity or consistent aggression then the child is most likely to offend by imitating their role model which could be a parent, sibling or even just a role model which they look up to.

Philip Zimbardo (1971) – Stanford prison experiment – Dr Philip Zimbardo created the Stanford prison experiment in 1971, the aim of this experiment was to find out the psychological effects of prison life, and to what extent can moral people be seduced to act immorally. The study consisted of 24 students selected out of 75, the roles of these 24 men were randomly assigned, 12 to play prison guards and 12 to play prisoners. The prison set up was built inside the Stanford’s psychological department, doors where taken of laboratory rooms and replaced with steel bars in order to create cells.

At the end of the corridor was the small opening which became the solitary confinement for the ‘bad prisoners’. Throughout the prison there were no windows or clocks to judge the passage in time, which resulted in time distorting experiences. After only a few hours, the participants adapted to their roles well beyond expectations, the officers starting displaying authorisation and subject some of the prisoners to humiliation and torture whilst the prisoners developed passive attitudes towards the guards and accepted the physical abuse that was given to them.

On the second day with surprise an unexpected rebellion broke out, reinforcement was called and more guards where to be on duty however the prisoners refused to leave their cells, barricading themselves in. This early in to the experiment the prisoners had already felt a loss of identity to the extent they started to refer to themselves as their inmate number rather than name. Even Dr Zimbardo himself started to lose sight of his role in the experiment believing he was in fact a ‘prison superintendent’ rather than a psychologist.

Due to the extent of the rebellion the guards were forced to show more authority over them which led to the creation of the ‘privileged cell’. In order to break down the ‘superior’ inmates the guards placed the good prisoners in the privileged cell for a few hours, then placed the good prisoners back into the bad cells causing confusion within the inmates, breaking the trust and isolating them. Within a week the study was abandoned as the experiment was no longer a simple simulation, instead the guards saw the prisoners as troublemakers they were made out to be.

In response to this they began stepping up control, surveillance and aggression whilst the prisoner started breaking down emotionally being unable to handle the situation anymore. From the observations and information given by Dr Zimbardo’s reports, this study has helped in the understanding of criminal behaviour as it relates to imitation and conformity. The guards imitated the behaviour of real guards adapting the role quiet quickly. The prisoners also adapted the role quickly falling into depression and conforming to each other.

This also helps how a person mental state can change their behaviour, with the prisoners they soon became depressed and mentally unstable, and this shows that when put into a certain disciplinary situation the mind adapts causing them to act immorally. Solomon Ashce (1951) – Conformity experiment- Solomon Ashce conducted the conformity experiment in 1951. The aim of this experiment was to investigate the extent of social pressure from a majority group can affect a person to conform. For this experiment Ashe used a lab experiment. Ashe used 8 participants for this experiment, 7 confederates and 1 naive participant.

The 7 confederates had previously agreed to what their responses would be when presented with the line task. However the real participant had no knowledge of this and was led to believe that the other 7 participants were also real. With this experiment each person had to state aloud which line was most like the target line, (A, B or C). The answer was always an obvious one. The real participant always gave his or her answer last in order to see if they conformed or not. In some trials, the confederates gave the wrong answer whereas in some they gave the correct obvious answer.

In the experiment there was 18 trials altogether and the confederates gave the wrong answer 12 out of the total 18. Ashce main observation was to find out if the real participant would end up conforming based on the majority views given by the other 7 participants. The results were then drawn up and out of the 18 trails, around 75% of the trials the real participant conformed even though he or she knew the answers were wrong. From the observations, this study has helped in the understanding of criminal behaviour as it explains that criminals may have previously been highly exposed to such aggressive behaviour causing them to conform.

This shows that publicly any source of aggressive behaviour or criminal activity can lead to conformity causing more criminal behaviour. Anderson and Dill (2000) – Violence in video games study- Both Anderson and Dill conducted the relation between violence and video games study in 2000. The aim of this study was to find out how violent video games relate to aggressive behaviour. Their first study consisted of 227 students which were given a questionnaire in order to get data on their aggressive behaviour patterns.

This study looked at the long-term exposure to video games and what effect it has on aggression towards people. The findings of the first study relating to the questionnaire came back with positive relations between the violence portrayed in video games and aggressive behaviour. The second study which Anderson and Dill conducted was to approach the impact that video games have on aggressive thoughts, social view and mood of a person. This study consisted of 210 students which were given a choice of 2 video games a non violent game ‘Myst’ or a violent interactive video game ‘Wolfstein 3D’.

With the non violent game the objective was to travel the island of Myst, finding clues and making your own ending depending on the journey you took. With the violent game the objective was to eliminate the enemy ‘Adolf Hitler’ choosing your own hero and variety of weapons. With each game the students were allocated 3 slots for a period of 15minutes each. The findings of this study concluded Anderson and Dills knowledge and opinions that those exposed to the violent video game gained more aggressive behaviour than those who were not exposed to violence.

From the observations, this study has helped in the understanding of criminal behaviour as it states that playing video games may increase aggressive behaviour because the violent acts are continually repeated throughout the game. Video games also encourage players to identify and interact through role play of their favourite characters causing them to imitate the character they are playing. Referring to first person in a game, it causes lead players to make their own decisions in the game affecting the actions of the character.

Anderson and Dills studies show that after a limited amount of time playing violent video games, a player can start to automatically prime aggressive thoughts which can lead to aggressive behaviour. This shows that continually playing violent video games can affect a person’s thought patters leading to automatic aggressive behaviour through imitation of their favourite characters which could lead to criminal activity. Jahoda name study (1954)- Jahoda created the name study or as it is also called the self fulfilling prophecy.

Jahoda studied the Ashanti tribe people who gave their boys ‘soul names’ depending on what day of the week they were born. For example, boys born a Monday were expected to be peaceful and full of good, whereas boys born on Wednesday which were called ‘Kwaku’ were expected to be aggressive and quick tempered. Jahoda found that when looking at prison and court records 13. 5% of boys that had been referred to court to court where from boys that were born on Wednesday, yet they were responsible for over 22% of violent crimes which was significantly higher than would be expected and shows that Wednesdays boys tended to live up to their reputation.

However as for the boys born on Monday, they found that only 6. 9% of all juvenile cases where of minor offences. This implies that stereotypes of the boys behaviours depending on which day of the week they were born caused them to live up to expectations of their names. Jahoda concluded from all this that there was indeed nothing magical about the day of the week the boys were born on but of effect of expectations has on a person’s behaviour. From the observations and findings, this study has helped in the understanding of criminal behaviour as it links to the effect of rehabilitation and the study of the self fulfilling prophecy.

If the offenders have the expectation that they should behave in such a way, rehabilitation may be more difficult. Overall the psychological theory of criminal behaviour suggests that negative expectations cause curtain’s to behave towards others in a specific way because their stereotypes – self fulfilling prophecy. Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) – Self fulfilling prophecy- Both Rosenthal and Jacobson also conducted a self fulfilling prophecy study and the way that people behave according to profiling or being stereotyped in 1968.

Their study was conducted on students in a classroom which was also known as the ‘Pygmalion in the classroom’. The students were then put into groups of what the students think they will achieve, where they were then treated in a way that their ability group could achieve. All students completed an IQ test before the study. The findings of this study concluded Rosenthal and Jacobson’s theory that when people are put into groups or have been stereotyped into a group can cause people’s behaviour to change as they will live up to the expectations of the stereotype.

The findings found were that after two years the students that were put into the group for higher levels achieved higher than the other students in any other group. These students were known to have been given additional feedback and extra attention so the finding expected had were correct. From the findings, this study has helped in the understanding of criminal behaviour as it shows that when categorised into a stereotype, people soon learn to live up to that expectation, behaving in a certain way.

This also has an impact on a person’s self esteem, causing them to act undesirably and maybe even lead them to turn to crime. Eden (1990) – Self fulfilling prophecy- Eden also conducted the self fulfilling prophecy study in 1990, this study explains why some people turn to crime due to the way they have been stereotyped or labelled into a certain group. For this study, Eden looked at the training of 1000 Israeli soldiers and had them organised into 29 platoons. Some platoon trainers were told their groups were above the average potential but other trainers were told nothing.

The findings of this study showed that after 10 weeks the performance of all soldiers were assessed and was found that on both the written exam and weapon test, the soldiers who had been told they were above the average potential did overall better than others, even though all soldiers were at an average level. These findings concluded Eden’s expectations that when labelled into a certain group, a person can adjust to behave according to expectations within the labelled group.

This study has helped in understanding of criminal behaviour as it shows the stereotypes and labelled groups can influence a person’s self esteem leading them to behave in a certain way and if the stereotype is negative it can cause a person to turn to crime. Sheehan (1983) – TV violence and aggression Sheehan conducted the TV violence and aggression study in 1983. This study consisted of a group of middle class children aged between 5 and 10 to help find the link between children’s TV viewing and aggressive behaviour.

Throughout the study data was gathered about the participants’ parents and the researchers also asked about the children’s aggressive fantasies to whether it would physically injure a person. Sheehan found that there were correlations between viewing violence and peer rated correlations for children that were aged between 8 and 10, with the correlations being stronger for the boys than the girls. The results were recorded by looking whether the child injured of irritated another person.

These findings can relate to the social learning theory as he found that boys were more likely to imitate male models but overall looking at the data Sheehan collected, those who watched violent TV and films became more aggressive towards others than those who did not. This study has helped in understanding of criminal behaviour as it shows that continuously watching violent and aggressive TV programmes can affect a person’s thought patterns leading to automatic aggressive behaviour and imitation of their favourite characters which could lead to criminal activity.

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