How Is A Criminal Mind Developed?

How is it that some people become criminals, while the majority do not? When the same temptations face all of us, why do certian individuals succumb, while others keep to the narrow path of righteousness?

Are criminals born that way, unable to control antisocial instincts, or do they become possessed by malign beings - evil gods, demons or even the Devil himself

My first thought was lack of income, education and poor childhood. But then I am reminded of Ted Bundy who attended Stanford on a scholarship (lack of money) in Chinese studies, had a normal childhood and graduated with a B.S. He was handsome and charming. Also I have seen a lot of innocent homeless men on the streets. So my response would be wrong.

Could it be due to hormones? Hormones are “messenger” chemicals secreted into the bloodstream by endoctrine glands or nerve cells. The messages they carry regulate the growth of specific organs that may influence human behavior.

How about Testosterone?
Research has suggested that the male sex hormone “testosterone” is directly related to aggressive, antisocial crimes.

What about diet?
I don’t have a cite but I read it in a book that Researchers have alos looked at the efffecs of nutritional deficiency. A study reported that a group of prison inmates who had been given a specially designed diet with enhanced quanties of vitamins showed a marked improvement in their behavior.

There is also the “high” that one gets with the hormone Epinephrine. It raises the rate of blood flow and increases the rate and depth of breathing preparing the body for “fright, flight or fight” (a state known as cortical arousal)

Could the potential for criminality be detected so that steps could be taken to halt its developments?

Complicated question.

IMHO, it starts with a lack of respect for others.
It looks to me that respect for others and other creatures is something that has to be taught. The default position being a lack of it. And it has to start young

A seemingly simple correction of the boy that’s pulling out a fly’s wings, is in fact a big step in the process, I’ve always thought.
Normally little boys stop doing such things when it is brought to their awareness that their action actually hurts the fly. That it has feelings and, of course 'How would you like it if I ripped your arms off.

Likewise, respect for other people’s property and all the other stuff has to be learned.

I wouldn’t say that upbringing encompasses all of it.
There is indeed the “high” that you can get addicted to and that needs ever increasing levels of ‘criminality’ to get that feeling.

I think, maybe, the high comes from the apprehension you have for doing something that is wrong plus the fear of being found out. But that apprehension needs to be there in the first place. The more you un-learn the ‘wrongness’
the more callous you become and the greater the ‘wrongness’ must be to get the same kick you got in the past.

Most of the really bad criminals have been on a long path of criminal behaviour, sliding ever further down the ‘wrongness scale’.
Corrective action should therefore start very early, to stop that slide.

You will always be able to find counter-examples for any set of criteria you select. Consider it background noise: there is some kind of distribution of criminality for any given population.

First thing to do is work around what a criminal mind is. It a drug lord a criminal mind? What if we legalized drugs, is he suddenly sane? When we draw lines, as we must, we should use caution and understand why these lines and what consequences it will have.

I am inclined to think primarily of environment. I am low on the nature scale in the nature versus nurture debates. This is not to disregard its effects, but to say that we are likely to control environment much more than bare nature (biology) at this point, so it seems to me to be the proper focus for discussion. Not that I intend to limit the discussion, of course, just MHO.

Latro, “It looks to me that respect for others and other creatures is something that has to be taught.” My problem is that it seems something that can easily be unlearned due to the nature of modern living. I can’t remember the last time I was treated with genuine respect, apart from restaraunt servers and people trying to sell me something.

What is a criminal?

Is a person that hides information and misleads someone eles to rip them of a criminal? Even if it is legal. The economists just say CAVEATE EMPTOR.

I think “criminal mind” is very often a selfrighteous delusion.

Dal Timgar

There’re many sorts of criminals.
Criminality’s, (more or less), behavior that deviates from the nrom enough in several specific aspects of social interaction.
Your “average” serial killer is most likely radically different than your “average” pot smoker.

Main Entry: 1crim·i·nal
Pronunciation: 'kri-m&-n&l, 'krim-n&l
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French or Late Latin; Middle French criminel, from Late Latin criminalis, from Latin crimin- crimen crime
Date: 15th century
1 : relating to, involving, or being a crime <criminal neglect>
2 : relating to crime or to the prosecution of suspects in a crime <criminal statistics> <brought criminal action>
3 : guilty of crime; also : of or befitting a criminal <a criminal mind

The dictionary definition is unlikely to be helpful in the search for common elements of diverse personalities.

Well some of the things to look for are:

cruelty to animals
bed wetting
fire starting
excessive use of imagination

One out of five. How worried should I be?

Seriously, I think Latro has the right of it. Once you stop caring about your fellow human beings, you’ve got the criminal mentality. Growing up poor could teach you that, if you learn that you have to look out for yourself and screw everyone else. Growing up rich could teach you that, if you learn that you’re superior and no one else matters. It’s a really easy thing to learn; evolutionarily it makes a lot of sense.

OMG, we have a generation of criminals coming up! Oh, wait, you just described the traits of just about any little kid. :stuck_out_tongue:

I might have been 10 years old when I saw a psychopath in action. He was 11 or maybe 12, a kid I’d known just about all my life. (Yes, I see the humor in that.)

I went into a Shoemaker store with him. He gave the man his ticket and $5, and got his mother’s shoes. The Shoemaker counted out his $3 in change, and turned away.

Without missing a beat, Killer (honest, that was his nickname) took a shoe from the many lying on the counter in front of us and placed it over one of the $1 bills, and in the same instant bellowed at the cobbler for short changing him.

The little old man knew immediately what it was all about. He didn’t argue, just turned, opened the register, got another dollar bill and gave it to Killer. Of course, as the cobbler turned again to the register, Killer, nice as you please, plucked the buck from beneath the shoe and stuffed it in his pocket.

When we emerged from the shop, Killer displayed no conscience whatever. In fact I got the idea he felt totally justified in stealing the buck.

I didn’t know of the term ‘pyshopath’ at that tender age, but to me, Killer was certainly the most evil person I’d ever met. Just a little later in life I wasn’t at all surprised to hear he was doing time.

Does anyone doubt that genetics predisposes some people to crime?

The real question is not so much how criminal minds develop but how normal, ethical minds do not develop.

I have spent a great deal of time in maximum security facilities as a chaplain. What is most striking is the total immaturity of the majority of criminals…mentally, emotionally, morally, spiritually if you believe in that sort of thing. It’s exactly like junior high with more tatoos and weapons. Many of these people just don’t get the most basic principles of human interaction, like showing up to work, not just grabbing what you want, not smashing the face of someone who offends you. It makes the task of rehabilitation much more difficult because you have to do more than teach people not be criminals, you have to teach them to be normally and ethically functioning human beings. This is the kind of thing most of us just take for granted.

I think Latro had a good point. Some people become criminals because that kind of behavior was never discouraged in their most formative years.

No one is born with an innate sense of what is legally, or even socially, “right” and “wrong.” You learn these things through socialization. Even if a child’s parents never sit the child down and explain the “rules” a child develops his sense of morals through watching the behavior of his parents. Do they delight in taking an extra dollar, or do they make it a point to return it? Do they answer questions honestly, or do they lie to avoid consequences?

A conscience is no more than a learned sense of social shame. If a person is never taught that an act is shameful or abhorent, how can we expect that person to feel bad when they do it?

A criminal mind is not one thing, their are many kinds, and many with minds that are criminal for some may not be criminal themselves due to their differing circumstances.
There is criminality associated with mental defficiency; ranging from psychosis and cleptomania to idiocy and simple mindedness. There is criminality associated with situation; such as extreme poverty, poor upbringing, peer pressure. There is also criminality for which the cause cannot yet be identified.
As with anything positive and negitive feedback from any act will modify the future likely hood of similar acts. So someone who experiences more positive than negitive feedback for their criminal behaviour will more likely commit similar behaviour in the future.
So I believe anyone who is reduced by circumstance or mental defficiency to commiting a criminal act, and who then finds the positive gains (the feeling of power, the admiration of others, the monetary gain,…) outweighs the negitive (the feeling of self lothing, the disspleasure of others, the danger of being caught, …) is more likely to commit crime again.

Everyone can become criminally minded, if their situation becomes dessperate enough (take for instnce the French Resistance to Hitlers occupation, they were criminally minded and heros as well. )

  • Cruelty to animals? Nope, never in my life.
  • Bed wetting? Nope, never in my life.
  • Fire starting. As a kid I was fascinated by fire. I never lit a fire where I had not sought permission. As an adult, quite regularly, even paid to do it as part of my job.
  • Lying? If I say no, I would be lying.
  • Excessive use of imagination? All the time, as a child and as an adult. My job requires it.

My point is that the checklist is irrelevant when taken out of context. Sure, you may assume this thread provides the context, but I disagree. I’m sure many of us may very well exhibited some, many, or even all from the list growing up, but never turned to the Dark Side.

Haven’t there been proponents that criminal behaviour may be genetic, even with an extra chromosone? Any of this valid?

Your choice of words (criminal) kinda makes your question almost meaningless. There is no criminal mind. If you are break the law, you are a criminal. I know of noone who follows the letter of the law strictly, 100% of the time. Almost all of us can be caught breaking the law within a few minutes of getting into a car and driving, and most of those laws are broken through pure ignorance, impatience, or laziness. I myself break certain laws regularly because they are idiotic, and I am proud to a fault.

In short, you have a criminal mind, we all have a criminal mind. If you have not broken the law yet (that you know of), congratulations, you just have not run into the law that chafes you yet. You will find it eventually.

Now, the more interesting question to me is, what makes us ignorant, impatient, lazy, and proud to the point that we do not care if it harms others?

To bring some statistics into this debate, there have been studies done on whether criminal behaviour is genetic.

IIRC, the methodology was that they looked at children who had criminal parents, and compared the arrest rates of those who were adopted and those who lived with their parents. The comparison ended up being 14% to 15% respectively.

My opinion is that peer group norms largely influence criminal behaviour. However, there is some biological component; explaining why some people violate group norms and also why people feel attracted to such peer groups in the first place. The parents have very little if any influence on criminal behaviour.

I would really like to see this study before I put much faith in its findings. There would have to be a myraid of controls in place for socio-economic factors, as well as educational and job opprotunities.

Unless a person is metally ill, I have serious doubts that there’s a biological component to criminal behavior. In my opinion, the main factor that affects “criminality” is socialization.

If we take it for granted that most crimes are irrational (ie the expected value of costs outweight the expected value of benefits), there is one certain element of a criminal mind: bad math skills.

I’m only partly joking, the economic rationality of criminal bahavior is a serious topic for inquiry.

I have only anecdotes, which are not the singular of data, so read with a salt shaker handy…

I took a minor wrong turn in my life around the age of 18, having spent most of my previous years intelligent enough to have been able to coast through school with a B average without having to do much actual mental application. I took this attitude and habit into college with me and got slammed in the face by reality fairly quickly. I was trying to swim the rapids without a lifejacket, and I dropped out.

Eventually I got tired of working for Ronald McDonald and answered an ad in the paper offering paid job training and placement assistance. It was for Job Corps, a government program designed to give at-risk youth a new chance to break out of that cage.

Understand that I was raised in a lower-middle-class household, went to private schools most of my life, and my only real run-in with the criminal class was the grade school bully (who, true to form, ended up in jail before he graduated high school). I met more gangbangers, wannabe gangbangers, drug dealers, drug addicts, literal teenage pimps, teenage hustlers and general criminals in my two years in Job Corps than I’d ever met before.

And I have to come down on the side of socialization because of what I learned and who I met. Some of these guys (and girls) were pretty bright, fairly intelligent. But when given the choice of two courses of action, they always took the least intelligent one. If they were two days away from graduating the program and getting accepted at a good-paying job, they’d blow out of the campus and go on a celebratory bender, get caught, and get terminated from the program. TWO DAYS FROM GRADUATION! They’d disrespect the RA’s in the dorms, the teachers, all the people who were going to be instrumental in getting them through this life-saving program. They’d slip away during evening cleanup so they wouldn’t have to do any work and get written up for it when they weren’t there for roll call.

Their acceptable social skills were so minimal that the program has classes in World of Work, which covered such basics as turning up for the job on time, cleanliness, respect for superiors, and not slacking while you’re on the clock. I yawned through so many of the preliminary classes (which were mandatory for all students) because they were subjects that I’d generally had down for at least a decade at that point (I was 24 when I went in).

It’s socialization. The society that the majority of criminals grow up in is not the mainstream society. There are exceptions (white collar crime in particular, but oddballs like Bundy and Kaczinsky, too) that don’t fit this rule, but the majority seem to. How many hardcore liquor store holdup artists take their loot back to Mummy and Daddy’s Bel-Air mansion?