Rational Choice Theory: Criminology

901 WordsSep 4, 20114 Pages
Choice theory was born out of the perspective of crime causation which states that criminality is the result of conscious choice. This theory is also known as the rational choice theory. According to this theory, the choice whether or not to commit a criminal act is the result of a rational thought process that weighs the risks of paying the costs of committing a crime, against the benefits obtained. In other words, if the benefits--monetary or otherwise--outweigh the risks of sustaining the costs, such as fines, imprisonment or execution, then according to this theory the individual would be inclined to commit the crime, all other things being equal. In this calculus, the benefits are known. For example, “this diamond that I want to…show more content…
These biologically pseudoscientific theories later played a role in German Nazi classification of racial, intelligence and behavioral typing as well. Again, the idea of individual rational choice as an element of criminal behavior was downplayed. Slightly less contrasting to the rational choice theory is the Psychobiological theory of human behavior. Originating with human genetic research in the 1960s, this theory stood for the proposition that the chemical makeup of a person—whether a result of naturally occurring DNA, genetic mutation caused by environmental contaminants, chemical changes through the addition or retraction of key nutrients, or chemical reactions to physical trauma—all contributed to the way the individual formulated thoughts, feeling and positive or criminal behavior. Here, the idea of the individual making rational “cost/benefit” choices was not discounted; rather, the thought process was considered as being influenced heavily by chemical and biological factors. If an individual’s chemical makeup were “out of balance”, that condition was deemed to cause undesirable or socially deviant behavior, contributing to criminal thought and action. Similar to the Psychobiological school of thought is the Psychological school of criminal causation. Two main undercurrents to this theory were biological causation and environmental causation, which were considered
Open Document