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Theories of motivation: Psychology

Other theories suggest that those who commit homicide are psychologically distinct from others.

Other theories suggest that those who commit homicide are psychologically distinct from others. There are countless theories relating to the links between psychology and violence. Some key ones include:

Psychoanalytic and clinic approaches which date back to Freud and consider personality configurations and how they affect a person’s behaviour. Freud suggested there were two different models for criminal behaviour: the first where certain forms of criminal behaviour are the result of mental illness due to disruption during psychosexual development. The second suggests that criminals have a ‘weak conscience’ due to a flaw in the socialisation of the child.

Evolutionary psychology – this suggests that behaviour is predominantly inherited and every organism aims to maximise the distribution of its ‘selfish’ genes to future generations. Some of the most well known theorists are Daly and Wilson who claim that the closer the genetic relationship between two individuals, the less likely they will be to kill each other. Although this may seem to go against some of the points that we’ve already discussed that highlight the prominence of murders along relations – a vast majority of those are spouses, who are not genetically related.

Personality theories – these suggest that individuals with certain personality types are likely to react in particular ways to particular situations, such as people who are likely to react in anger to certain situations, and that drive towards the anger is stronger than any drive to control it.

Social and cognitive psychology looks at how human behaviour is affected by social situations. The focus here is more on the environment that the person is in than the individual’s internal factors. Beck states (in pg 91 of Brookman) that ‘the common psychological problem lies in the offender’s perception – or misperception – of himself and other people.’ He exemplifies someone considering themselves a victim whom other people disrespect. This leads to feelings of low self-esteem that may result in violence.

© University of Hull
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Introduction to Criminology

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