The field of criminal psychology in India can roughly be traced back to 1916 when Calcutta University introduced its Department of Experimental Psychology. The psychology of criminal behaviour is quite intricate, like the human mind itself, and thus presents a lot of overlapping and conflicting theories.
You might have wondered, “What causes criminal behaviour psychology?” There are a lot of theories about that, which can be classified into 3 main categories. Read on to find out about the various psychological, biological, and sociological factors that often underly criminal behaviour.
Nowadays, people involved in the study of crime and criminal behaviour often agree that several biological factors can play a role in the manifestation of criminal tendencies in individuals. These biological factors are usually related to either the various parts of the brain or various secretions that are controlled by the brain.
- Prefrontal Cortex: The prefrontal cortex is the part at the front of the human brain that is mainly responsible for self-control. Individuals who engage in criminal activities are often found to have underdeveloped or damaged prefrontal cortexes. This part doesn’t develop to its full extent till the mid-20s in most people, which might explain why teenagers exhibit poor self-control.
- Amygdala: Similarly, a study showed that 26-year-old men with smaller amygdalas were more likely to be 3 times more aggressive and violent than men with more normal-sized amygdalas three years later. That is because this part of the brain is linked to fear, aggression, and social interaction.
- Anterior Cingulate Cortex: The Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) is heavily involved in behaviour regulation and a study by the APA found that inmates with lower ACC activity were twice as likely to return to prison after 4 years.
- Unnatural levels of hormones like testosterone and neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin also affect criminal tendencies to some degree.
Also Read: How Effective Are India’s Criminal Laws?
There are many sociological theories that postulate that social and environmental factors may influence a person to commit a crime. One such theory, for example, tries to explain that criminal behaviour is motivated by neighbourhood dynamics. That means that individuals that grew up in poor neighborhoods without access to proper housing, or health facilities, and at a socioeconomic disadvantage are more likely to commit crimes.
Most sociological theories about the psychology of criminal behaviour do seem to suggest that individuals who had to fend for themselves from an early age and grew up feeling unfairly disadvantaged compared to their peers are more likely to engage in criminal activities. The Strain Theory also outlines the role of peer pressure and cultural goals in this regard.
Most psychological theories that try to explain criminal behaviour stress the importance of childhood in the development of an individual. Traumatic experiences in childhood can lead to criminal tendencies in individuals, they say. Let us now take a look at the three major psychological theories that try to explain criminality.
The psychodynamic theory was put forward by none other than Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), often referred to as the father of psychology. This theory is based on the three parts that make up the human personality – id, ego, and superego. The id is responsible for fulfilling the basic needs of survival like food, sex, sleep, and functions on an unconscious level. It is guided by the pleasure principle, seeking instant gratification. The ego, on the other hand, is present on the subconscious level and operates on the reality principle.
Finally, we come to the superego, which operates on the morality principle and drives moral decisions. When it comes to crime and criminal psychology, the psychodynamic theory suggests that those who commit crimes do so out of a failure of the ego and superego to control the id.
Behavioral theory maintains that human behaviour is learned and not inherent. In some ways, it reflects many sociological theories about crime, in that it suggests that children learn violence by observation. According to Albert Bandura, the most prominent social theorist in the world, violence and aggression are modelled in children through three primary sources:
- Family interactions
- Environmental experiences
- Mass media
The cognitive theory tries to explain how people’s perception of the world around them governs their thoughts, actions, and behaviours. In the context of criminal behaviour, Lawrence Kohlberg has suggested that most criminals are trapped in the pre-conventional level of moral development, which is the lowest of the three levels of moral development, and is found in children.
Role of Criminal Psychology in Law
Police and other law enforcement agencies often employ a method known as criminal profiling that helps them fit the crime scene to the criminal. This involves using the services of a criminal psychologist to identify five behavioural characteristics that help in identifying the perpetrator of a crime among a pool of suspects.
In India, criminal profiling oftentimes takes on the colour of our pre-independence social injustices, however. While it is sad to hear, people from lower castes, with lower economic backing, are often unable to defend themselves when they are wrongly accused of crimes they didn’t commit. This kind of casteist social bias can be very common yet unknown to the regular people, like the case with the Denotified tribes in our country.
Psychology and criminal justice system are also interrelated in most countries. In India, this can be observed in how there are different degrees of rehabilitation systems, milder detention for juveniles, and prison for adults.
Criminal behaviour and what motivates it in individuals is a fascinating subject that can only be explained to a certain degree by psychology. Even then, psychology is not an exact science and thus there exist many parallel theories that try to explain the psychology of criminal behaviour. While this blog might have been a great insight into what might make a criminal different from a person beside them, we at Lex Solutions would advise you to take the services of a criminal lawyer when it comes to criminal cases.
- What is criminal psychology example?
Some facts about criminal psychology examples include:
- It is a subfield of criminology and applied psychology
- The practice of criminal profiling is now termed by the FBI as criminal investigative analysis.
- Which laws deal with criminal cases in India?
The laws that deal with criminal cases in India are the Indian Penal Code, 1860(IPC), and the Criminal Procedure Code, 1974 (CrPC).
- How does psychology contribute to the criminal justice system?
The criminal justice system in India is very dependent on criminal psychology in India. It is necessary for proving this like unsound of mind for the perpetrators of crimes, or have separate punishment and holding facilities for adults and juveniles.
- Are criminals intelligent?
Yes. While most people assume that criminals have low intelligence and hence commit crimes, recent studies and serial killers suggest that intelligence plays no part in the tendency of people to commit crimes. Indeed, the biggest criminals who are never caught are usually psychopaths or sociopaths with high IQ levels.
- What are the 7 types of crimes?
The seven different categories that crimes are categorised into in the IPC include:
- Offences against the human body
- Offences against property
- Offences relating to public tranquillity
- Offences relating to documents
- Offences against women and children
- Offences against state and terrorism
- Offences relating to elections