Criminology is an advanced, theoretical field ofstudy. It can be defined as the study ofcrime, the causes of crime (etiology), the meaning of crime in terms of law,and community reaction to crime. Not toolong ago, criminology separated from its mother discipline, sociology, andalthough there are some historical continuities, it has since developed habitsand methods of thinking about crime and criminal behavior that are uniquely itsown.
Theory is a complex subject in its own right. Criminologicaltheory is no exception; it also tends to be complex. Some definitions of termsmight help to understand the field:
Criminology — the science of crime rates, individual and group reasons for committing crime,and community or societal reactions to crime.
*Criminologist — a person who studies criminology; notto be confused with a "criminalist" whoreconstructs a crime scene or works with crime scene evidence for forensicpurposes.
*Applied criminology — the art of creating typologies,classifications, predictions, and especially profiles of criminal offenders,their personalities and behavior patterns.
*Theory construction — an informed, creative endeavorwhich connects something known with something unknown; usually in a measurableway.
*Theory building — efforts to come up with formal,systematic, logical, and mathematical ways in which theories are constructed.
*Theoretical Integration — efforts to come up withgrand, overarching theories which apply to all types of crime and deviance.
*Theoretical Specification — efforts to figure out thedetails of a theory, how the variables work together; usually associated with abelief that many, competing theories are better than integrated efforts.
*Theoretical Elaboration — efforts to figure out theimplications of a theory, what other variables might be added to the theory;also associated with the belief that theory competition is better thantheoretical integration.
*Variables — the building blocks of theories; thingsthat vary; things you can have more or less of; e.g., crime rates, being moreor less criminally inclined (criminality).
Criminologists use words a certain way to indicaterelationships between causes (independent variables) and effects (dependentvariables). Here are some general guidelines that might help when reading someactual writing of a criminologist:
*«varies with» — this means thingsfluctuate together; as one thing goes up, the other thing goes down; usuallyused to describe a possible inverse relationship but also used to describe adirect relationship.
*«where...» — while not technically a verb,this word usually indicates a feedback relationship, where things go up or downin response to one another. Often, but not always, the case involves animportant Z factor which moderates, distorts, or confounds the relationship. Relationals like «varies»,«fluctuates», «predominates», «associated with»,and «overrepresented by» are usually found when the theorist isdealing with socio-demographic variables, like age, race, or social class.
*«seems to be» — this wishy-washy languageusually means that the theorist suspects a weak relationship, probably way lessthan 50%.
*«tends» — this might mean, but not always,that there are important Z factors which are antecedent, intervening, orcontingent; that is, that come before, in the middle, or after an X and Yrelationship. Or, it may be a cojoint relationship.
*«is conducive to» — this usually meansthat the cause is a mysterious, unknown construct; typically found in highlyabstract theories involving words like anomie, relative deprivation, norms, orcontrols. In some cases, it refers to a confounding or contextual relationship.
The HISTORY of criminology dates back to Lombroso, whom many regard as the father ofcriminology. Others claim thatPhrenology (studying bumps on the head) better represents the origins of thescience. Even today, there is still aninterest in the biological causes of criminal behavior.
Anthropology is the most humanistic of the sciencesand the most scientific of the humanities. (Alfred Kroeber)
Between 1750and 1850, two popular fields of scientific practice consisting of thePHYSIOGNOMISTS and PHRENOLOGISTS tried to prove that there were links betweenthe propensity to engage in criminal behavior and unusual physical appearance(mostly the face, ears, or eyes) and the shape of the skull (bumps on the headbeing an indicator of dominant brain areas). The physiognomists studied facial appearanceand the phrenologists studied bumps on the head. Both fields of study were quite influentialat the time, and are lumped together in history books as the area of CRIMINALANTHROPOLOGY, early biological perspectives, the legacy of demonology (uglinessas the mark of evil), or in the 20th century, known as constitutionalism (thestudy of human physique, or constitution of the body). The search for aconstitutionally determined «criminal man» continued up until 1950.
Physiognomyis the making of judgments about people's character from the appearance oftheir faces or countenance. Its founderwas J. Baptiste della Porte(1535-1615) who studied cadavers, and associated small ears, bushy eyebrows,small noses, and large lips with criminal offenders. Johan Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801) was another physiognomistwho associated «shifty-eyed» people who had weak chins and arrogantnoses with criminal behavior. No seriouscriminologist today gives much credence to physiognomy.
Phrenologyis the study of the external characteristics of a person's skull as anindicator of his or her personality, abilities, or general propensities. Some bumps on the skull indicate lower brainfunctions (like combativeness). Otherbumps represent higher functions and propensities (like morality). Crime occurs when the bumps indicate that thelower propensities are winning out over the higher propensities. Phrenologists believed that with mentalexercise, a criminal might be reformed. The most eminent phrenologists were Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828) andhis pupil, John Gaspar Spurzheim(1776-1832). The phrenologists turned out to be not all that off in where theythought certain brain functions (35 of them showing up on bumps) werelocated. The destructiveness center, forexample, which is located right behind the ear above <st1:City w:st=«on»><st1:place w:st=«on»>Darwin</st1:place></st1:City>'s point, is pronounced in 17% ofcriminals. Other bumps, in the back ofthe head, turned out to be pronouncements of the Amygdalaand Hippocampus, where tumors are associated with criminal behavior (as in the <st1:State w:st=«on»><st1:place w:st=«on»>Texas</st1:place></st1:State> sniper, CharlesWhitman). The general rule is that anyabnormality in the back of the head is bad («back is bad»). The association between other bumps (on thehead) and moral (or intellectual) functions were badly mistaken byphrenologists (such as Gall), but in his defense, research methods had not beenwell-developed by 1835 (note this early date; some regard Gall as the firstcriminologist).
Criminalanthropology is the name usually associated with the work of Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) andhis followers who performed autopsies on criminals and found they hadcharacteristics similar to primitive humans, monkeys, and chimpanzees. Some ofthe anomalies (differences or defects) found among criminals included headwidth, height, degree of receding forehead, head circumference, head symmetry,and so on. Lombrosohad his Goring (1870-1919), a scientist dedicated to disproving Lombroso. WhileGoring found height and weight differences, he concluded there was no suchthing as a «born criminal» based on physical inferiority. The idea of degeneracy lived on, however, andcriminal anthropology in the U.S. was spearheaded by a diffuse group of 8-9 degenerationists who were active between 1881 and 1911(e.g. MacDonald's Criminology, Benedikt's AnatomicalStudies upon Brains of Criminals, Talbot's Degeneracy, Lydston'sThe Diseases of Society, and Parsons' Responsibility for Crime; Fink's Causesof Crime, Haller's Eugenics are good secondary sources.) In 1911, Maurice Parmelee(whom some regard as an early founder, if not the founder, of Americancriminology) began rejecting anthropological theories.
Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909) isknown as the father of modern criminology, and the chief historical figure inthe Italian positivist movement. His works include:
(1876) L'Uomo Delinquente. <st1:City w:st=«on»><st1:place w:st=«on»>Milan</st1:place></st1:City>:Horpli.
(1895) L'Homme Criminel. Felix: Alcan. (twovolumes)
Lombroso popularized the notion of a «borncriminal» which represents an extreme statement of biological determinismwhich had great influence well into the 20th Century (and for the founding ofcriminology) even though much of this thinking is now outdated except for therecurring idea that criminals have particular physiognomic defects ordeformities. Physiognomy is the art of estimating character from the featuresof the face or the form of the body. Most students are familiar with hischecklist of physiognomic indicators.
Unusually short or tall height
Small head, but large face
Small and sloping forehead
Wrinkles on forehead and face
Large sinus cavities or bumpy face
Large, protruding ears
Bumps on head, particularly the <st1:place w:st=«on»><st1:PlaceName w:st=«on»>Destructiveness</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st=«on»>Center</st1:PlaceType></st1:place>above left ear
Protuberances (bumps) on head, in back of head andaround ear
High check bones
Bushy eyebrows, tending to meet across nose
Large eyesockets, but deepset eyes
Beaked nose (up or down) or flat nose
Fleshy lips, but thin upper lip
Mighty incisors, abnormal teeth
Small or weak chin
Sloping shoulders, but large chest
Pointy or snubbed fingers or toes
Constitutionalism, or body-type theories, became popular in the 1930s,mostly on account of the work of Ernest Hooton, aHarvard anthropologist. He studied thousands of criminals and noncriminals from eight different states, concluding thatcriminals are inferior to civilians in all physical respects. There were also racist overtones to his workbecause he said the Negroid forehead was a perfect example of a criminalforehead. In the 1940s, the work of William Sheldon shifted attention away fromadults to the physiques of juvenile delinquents. Sheldon produced an«Index of Delinquency» based on three-way photographs which was usedin many states to determine if a child in trouble should be institutionalizedor not. Sheldon's approach is sometimes called somatotypetheory. Sheldon's methods and results were given considerable support bySheldon and Eleanor Glueck in the 1950s who foundthat narrow faces, wider chests, larger waists, and bigger forearms wereassociated with 60% of delinquents and only 30% of nondelinquents.
Sheldon'sclassification of physique and temperament (somatotypetheory) is as follows:
Endomorphic — tendency to put on fat, soft roundnessof body, short tapering limbs, small bones, velvety skin; viscerotonictemperament, relaxed, comfortable person, loves luxury, an extrovert.
Mesomorphic — predominance of muscles, bone, and motor organs, large trunk, heavy chest,large wrist and hands, lean rectangular outline; somotonicor Dionysian temperament, active, assertive, aggressive, unrestrained.
Ectomorphic — predominance of skin, lean, fragile, delicate body, small bones, droppy shoulders, small face, sharp nose, fine hair; cerebrotonic temperament, sensitive, distractible, insomnia,skin troubles, allergies.
Each personpossesses the characteristics of all three types. Sheldon therefore used threenumbers, between 1 and 7, to indicate the extent to which the three types wereevident in each person. A person whose somatotype is <st1:date Year=«2004» Day=«7» Month=«1» w:st=«on»>7-1-4</st1:date>, for example, would have many endomorphiccharacteristics, very little mesomorphiccharacteristics, and an average number of ectomorphiccharacteristics. He found that the average institutionalized delinquent was a <st1:date Year=«2002» Day=«3» Month=«5» w:st=«on»>3-5-2</st1:date> somatotype.The Gluecks (always eclectic, or multiple factor,theorists) found that the average adult criminal was a <st1:date Year=«2003» Day=«2» Month=«6» w:st=«on»>2-6-3</st1:date> somatotype,and that 60% of delinquents were mesomorphs. Mesomorphy was associated with criminal behavior, flying inthe face of fitness gurus, like Charles Atlas, who was trying to shape upAmericans.
Incontemporary times, ideas about physical appearance occasionally show up incriminology. All the constitutionalists studied tattoos, for example. They were never really able to make anythingof it; they were just there for the study; lots of criminals had them. Tattoo removal (as well as plastic surgery)has found its way into a few correctional rehabilitation programs (Kurtzberg et. al… 1978). There's a whole subspecialty field that, for lack of a better term, canbe called the «physical attractiveness» studies (Cavior& Howard 1973; Agnew 1984) which suggest that ugliness really has gotsomething to do with becoming a criminal.
There's nonecessary relationship between criminal anthropology and eugenics (the ideathat a nation can save its stock by preventing reproduction of the unfit — negative eugenics — and simultaneously encourage the fit to produce moreoffspring — positive eugenics). A smallnumber of criminal anthropologists support the idea of eugenics; another,larger group strongly rejects it. Almostall criminologists today would be appalled at the idea of eugenics theory, yetit remains in the background of criminology as the field tries to developagenda-free information, and at one time (during the 1930s, eugenics was takenquite seriously — more on this in the next lecture).
Physiognomy,or at least some bits of it, will sometimes find its way into social psychologyand criminal justice, in studies of attractiveness and beauty, and in studiesof jury lenience depending upon the physical look of the defendant. This literature is not well-organized, andonly appears to be of sporadic interest to researchers.
Twin studieshave also looked at physical similarities and differences. Identical twins are more similar in their(criminal) behavior than fraternal twins, however, no definitive conclusionscan be drawn from twin studies in general. Adoption studies is anotherpromising area of research, but again, strong causal statements are rare in thewhole area of heredity-crime linkages.
The XYY chromosone syndrome became popular during the 1960s. People with this condition tend to be tall supermales who often exhibit aggression and violence. Some researchers have found that XYY typesare more likely to have a criminal record. Other observers note that the prison populations are filled with fairlyshort people, a pattern noticed early on by physiognomists,who also took an interest in height.
Galvanicskin response (the rate at which electricity travels across the surface of theskin) also measures mesomorphy to some extent. Many criminals have slower GSR rates, whichmeans they are somewhat more impervious to pain or at least may have adifferent neuromusculatory system.
It'sdifficult to describe a field as vast as anthropology or to even begin listingall the inroads into criminology. When Imajored in this as an undergraduate, the choices were either physical orcultural anthropology, and those are about the only choices you get at theundergraduate level, and if you express an interest in crime or criminals, theytend to steer you towards physical anthropology which studies bones (presumablyso you'll make a good crime scene investigator). However, the area of cultural or sociocultural anthropology is a much larger field (seeBenedict 1934 or Garbarino 1977), and then there'ssymbolic anthropology (<st1:place w:st=«on»>Douglas</st1:place> 1966), thefield of social anthropology, and all sorts of hard-to-classify kinds ofanthropology like Girard (1979). I'lltry to explain two of the most popular contemporary anthropologists.
MaryDouglas' book Purity and Danger is probably one of the top ten most influentialbooks ever written in the last 500 years. It is about the subject of ritual, and rituals are the ways societiesand people mark out their boundaries. There are many kinds of rituals: for purification, reconciliation,renewal, purity, passage, and mourning, for example. Douglas is concerned with purity rituals,which relate to the feeling of safety from dangers such as crime. You might understand the idea as the notionthat there are «lucky charms» which protect you from danger, andthere are plenty of theological examples as well (the Ark of the Covenant; theHoly Grail), etc. Each person also hastheir «bubble space» for self-protection, which is a kind of purityritual. The existence of an angry personin one's space is considered dangerous, and everything on the margins (ofsociety; one's environment) is also considered strange or dangerous. When people do wrong things, they are alsopolluting the purity of the environment, and pollution rules are not asequivocal as moral rules. A pollutionrule might call for the immediate execution of a transgressor, for example,while a moral code might give them the benefit of the doubt. Like others (Garfinkel1967), <st1:place w:st=«on»>Douglas</st1:place> is saying that our criminaljustice system as well as what we consider rights and wrongs are determined byour underlying, inborn, ritualistic responses. We see criminals as contaminating our world (like dirt). Justice provides no guarantee, but our ritualimpulses always come out.
Psychology and Sociology have influenced Criminologysignificantly. One of the things we are still struggling with, however, is thestudy of PSYCHOPATHS.