Thesis directed by Associate Professor Peter G. Ossorio
Traditional formulations of criminal behavior have generally focused upon specific developmental-causal factors related to the emergence of crime rather than upon the dimension of meaning of the illegal act beyond the performative levels. The present study has created a framework for understanding criminal behavior utilizing several concepts from Descriptive Psychology. Criminal behavior has been examined with respect to how it relates to the general principles of behavior and in terms of its unique aspects. The empirical demonstration has focused upon showing that both criminal and noncriminal ways of life are marked by choice principles that are expressed in a person's behaviors. The crime categories of burglary and armed robbery were chosen as examples of criminal behavior, and the occupations of auto mechanics and the ministry were selected as instances of non-criminal behavior for the study.
The results from the empirical part of the research offered some support for the thesis that particular groups of choice principles characterized different ways of life. Some variations in the predicted directions were found between criminals and noncriminals, and the choice principles selected as pertinent to the ministry were strongly confirmed. The paradigm developed for auto mechanics was not validated, however, and differences between criminal groups were not substantiated. Certain of the inherent difficulties in accurately assessing the characteristics of a criminal population were discussed. It was concluded that the two criminal paradigms needed to be tested with an already sentenced prison group in order to be appropriately evaluated for their relevance. The performance of the mechanics was explained largely as a matter of negative self-presentation resulting from working for impersonal and often exploitative employers.
Specific problems that arise with the use of self-report measures in a criminal population were discussed, and several suggestions were offered that appear to have relevance for future studies in the area. Other ideas for research were mentioned, including the possibility of generating and validating noncriminal alternative behaviors that are similar in motive patterns to whatever criminal behaviors are being studied. Hence, although certain of the hypotheses were not supported, the present study represents a significant step in the articulation and demonstration of the importance of choice principles as characterizers of different ways of life. [187 pp.]