Rational Choice Theory: Merits and Limitations
1195 Words5 Pages
The objective of this paper is to provide insight into Rational Choice Theory. This theory, highly relied upon by many disciplines, is also used to calculate and determine crime and criminal behavior. Through definition, example and techniques utilized by criminologists, the reader will have a better understanding of the subject. By definition, criminology is the study of crime, criminal behavior and how it pertains to the law. Criminology is considered a scientific technique. Therefore, those who study and carry out its theories are considered scientists. The theories and practices within the subject help criminologists determine the cause and consequence of criminal behavior; also why criminology is so highly regarded among law…show more content…
This reasoning is inherently based on the belief that if the punishment is severe enough, it will deter or prevent further criminal behavior. Incidentally, thirty-eight states currently uphold the death penalty based on the findings of rational choice theory (cite).
The CEO of a large corporation decides to siphon small inconspicuous amounts of money from his employer, over an extended period of time. A thief decides to rob an elderly woman walking down a darkened street in the middle of the night. These are just a couple examples of rational choice transpiring. The CEO believes that if he steals only small amounts of money, stretched out over time, no one will have noticed that the money is missing and he will ultimately get away with it. The thief believes that by choosing a more vulnerable target, such as the elderly woman, in a less than safe environment, a darkened street that there will potentially be no witness to his crime and he will likely get away with it, as well.
Rational choice theory can be applied to nearly every form of crime. Murder, rape, robbery can all in some way be attributed to rational decision making. Rational choice theory is heavily relied upon because it allows for scientific explanation. Scientific explanation is considered the most respected and substantial form of supporting evidence in virtually all disciplines. However, due to a “lack” of true hard evidence, the accuracy
Show MoreChoice 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…
In contrast to the theory in the Classical and Neoclassical schools that decision making drove criminal behavior, the Biological theory of criminology emphasized the individual’s genetic makeup as the prime factor contributing to socially deviant and criminal behavior. Thus, this school of thought was based entirely on a physiological perspective, and took the Classical theory of rational choice totally out of the equation. Biological theory was not traditionally based on sound science, however. For example, one of the school’s earliest proponents, Franz Joseph Gall, to a large degree followed conventional thought of the time that the shape of one’s face, the placement or condition of one’s internal organs, determined personality, and from personality, the propensity towards criminal behavior. Working in the late 18th-early 19th centuries, Gall espoused that the brain contained the individual’s personality makeup, and that the outward shape of the skull evidenced the development or underdevelopment of the brain. In this way, Gall sought to interpret a person’s behavioral tendencies based on the shape of the person’s skull. This science, called “phrenology”, continued to enjoy some recognition in American science into the twentieth century, was continued by Italian psychologist Cesare Lombroso into the early