Rational choice theory is predicated on the idea that crime is a matter of choice in which a potential criminal weighs the cost of committing an act against the potential benefits that might be gained (Siegel, 2011, p. 84). James Q. Wilson expands on this decision in his book Thinking About Crime, stating that “people who are likely to commit crime are unafraid of breaking the law
The rational choice theory gives insight in to why otherwise law abiding citizens would commit crime. Most burglars do not burglarize because they want something specific from the victim's property nor are they saving the cash proceeds for a long-term goal. They burglarize because they need the money right now to pay off bills, buy food and clothes for their family or to purchase alcohol and illegal drugs. Most burglars would turn to making an honest living, but, even that does not meet their immediate desires for cash. Nor would the earned wages support their lifestyles. (Wright & Decker, 1994).
Rational choice theory is a criminology theory designed by Derek Cornish and Ronald Clark which states that before people commit a crime they think about what they are going to do (Snook, Dhami, & Kavanagh, 2011). They consider the pros and cons before performing the criminal action. The entire premise of the rational choice theory is that each individual, regardless of whether rich, poor, educated, or uneducated, all utilize rationality when making the decision to commit a crime (Taylor, 2013). The rational choice theory postulates that when a person weighs the costs and benefits of a crime, that person decides whether or not the benefits are worth the risk. It is about maximizing his or her own self-interest (Jacques & Wright, 2010). The
In this essay I will be comparing and contrasting the Rational Choice Theory(s) and the Trait Theory(s). We will start with the history of the two theories and progress toward some of the individual principles in the theories. Next step will be explaining how each theory contributes to criminal behavior. My closing paragraph will conclude the essay as well as give detailed information on how society punishes the crimes committed.
RCT is centered on the argument that criminal actions are not determined by environmental, psychological or biological factors which prompt the offender to commit the crime. The main assumption of this theory is that an individual’s actions are willingly and voluntarily executed by the person (Hastie & Dawes, 2010). According to RCT, offenders have a rational choice to make before committing a crime. Prior to committing the crime, an individual employs their logic to evaluate their options and make a decision on the action course. This assumption argues that the offender use their
Initially, the main belief was that criminal behavior was based on rational choice or thought, where criminals were believed to be intelligent beings and weighed the pros and cons before deciding to commit a crime; classicists Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham introduced this view. Essentially, these criminals would compare the risks of committing the crime, such as getting caught, jail or prison time, being disowned by family and friends, and so forth; and the rewards, such as money and new possessions. After making comparisons, the person would make a decision based on whether the risk was greater than the reward. This is like what is presented in an article on Regis University Criminology Program’s website, which states that a criminal “operates based on free will and rational thought when choosing what and what not to do. But that simplistic view has given way to far more complicated theories” (“Biological Theories Primer”). Nowadays, biological theories make attempts in explaining criminal behavior in terms of factors that are primarily outside of the control of the individual.
The psychological theories of criminal behavior focus on the lack of socialization, incomplete cognitive development, and bad childhood experiences. Those who study psychological theories believe that failures in cognitive development can be a major factor in malfunctioning behavior. These criminals have difficulty controlling anger and containing violence, which causes them to lash out. The results of these episodes are murder, rape, robbery, assault, and battery. Many more crimes can come about from such behavior, especially when the criminal falls into a negative cycle. Their behavior spirals out of their control, as they try to solve each of their crimes by committing another, to try and right the situation.
The Rational Choice Theory, as more commonly referred to as Choice Theory, is a view as to why criminals commit crimes, and more importantly why juveniles choose to be delinquent. The problem of juvenile delinquency in keeping with this viewpoint, makes juvenile delinquency an individual problem and not a social problem. The Rational Choice theory will be detailed throughout this paper as well as the theory’s established ways in which the theorists believe juvenile delinquency can be prevented. The validity of the Rational Choice Theory will also briefly be discussed.
Theories of crime causation get to the fundamental characteristics of human nature. Theories of crime causation can be separated into trait theories and choice theories. Both types of theories make valid points about the causes of crime, yet they are have different implications for preventing the causes of crime. Thesis: Trait theories and choice theories both assume that humans are self-interested, but their conceptions of self-interest limit the applicability of each to certain types of crime. Trait theories appear more suited for explaining the causes of violent crime, whereas choice theories are more appropriate to property crimes or economic crimes.
By contrast, rational choice theory does not apply to certain offenses such as, involuntarily manslaughter or unintentional assaults that delinquents are less likely to consider about the possible benefits. For example, involuntarily manslaughter can occur when a delinquent is intoxicated and accidentally ran over a pedestrian. Certainly, this accident is irresponsible behavior, but the adolescent is not rationally outweighing the consequences and the benefit; thus, the rational choice theory would not apply to this offense. Unintentional assaults may occur if kids feel threatened by their friends, family, or peers and decided to attack them in order to protect themselves or their love ones. In this scenario, adolescents are not motivated by
According to Paternoster and Bachman (2001), “the rational choice perspective was explicitly developed to assist policy thinking,” aside from, “every act of crime involves some choice by the offender and that he or she can be held responsible for that choice and can legitimately be punished (Paternoster & Bachman, 2001, p. 34).” A successful example of the rational choice theory illustrates as Paternoster and Bachman (2001) points out, “that studies of the victims of serial killers and rapists through Rossmo’s (1995) geographic profiling, which is bases on findings from environmental criminology (Brantingham & Brantingham, 1991) in that most crime is committed within activity spaces of offenders
Rational choice theory, also known simply as choice theory, is the assessment of a potential offender to commit a crime. Choice theory is the belief that committing a crime is a rational decision, based on cost benefit analysis. The would-be offender will weigh the costs of committing a particular crime: fines, jail time, and imprisonment versus the benefits: money, status, heightened adrenaline. Depending on which factors out-weigh the other, a criminal will decide to commit or forgo committing a crime. This decision making process makes committing a crime a rational choice. This theory can be used to explain why an offender will decide to commit burglary, robbery, aggravated assault, or murder.
Rational choice theory and social control theory both show why an individual may commit a criminal act, but they both also draw criticism of their approach. Rational choice theory critics point out that “The first problem with the theory has to do with explaining collective action. That is, if individuals simply base their actions on calculations of personal profit, why would they ever choose to do something that will benefit others more than themselves?” (Crossman, 2015). The theory focuses only on the individual’s mindset and doesn’t take into account any of their social structure. The society an individual grows up in may make them more prone to commit crime. Social control theory, in particular the study conducted by Travis Hirschi, also
People chose all behavior and including all criminal behavior. Which in this case the choices that criminals make brings them pleasure and adrenaline. Criminal choices can be controlled by fear of punishment, but not all the time. The crime will be limited when the benefits are reduced and the costs increase. Rational choice theory is a perspective that holds criminality in the result of conscious choice. Not to mention, that it is predicted that individuals choose to commit crime when the benefits outweigh the costs of disobeying the law. In the rational choice theory, individuals are seen as motivated offenders by their needs, wants and goals that express their preferences. This theory has been applied to a wide of range in crime, such as robbery, drug use, vandalism, and white collar crime. Furthermore, rational choice theory had a revival in sociology in the early 1960s, under the heading of exchange theory, and by the end of the decade was having a renewed influence in criminology, first as control theory and later as routine activities theory.
Rational choice theory states that the person will make sensible and reasonable decisions that will benefit or gratify their interest; therefore the juvenile will choose a behavior that will encourage them to either avoid pain while seeking pleasure. It gives insight as to why the juvenile offender committed a certain crime, as we have learned crimes are committed because the offender feels a sense of reward, it was easy, thrill seeking and fun. So the juvenile is also rational and their behavior can be curtailed or adapted with the punishment of fear (Ministry of Children and Youth Services, 2013)