Operant-Utilitarian Conditioning and Criminal Behavior
Operant-Utilitarian Conditioning and Criminal Behavior
Criminal behavior is subjective of the effects of the social environment and experiences in a person’s upbringing. Crime is also not limited to the social environment but also historical tendencies. If a person is raised in a violent environment, there is a high likelihood that they will maintain the violence when they grow up. This is because they were conditioned to react violently. This shows that family, too, plays a significant role in defining how an individual turns out when they are grown. How a person was raised, and their experiences may create hormonal, genetic, and brain abnormalities that lead them to develop or accept irrational response to normal social behaviors (XXXXXX). As such, biological factors can also be considered to play a role in shaping criminal behavior among people. These people are also predisposed to a variety of other risk factors such as abusive parents or partners, substance abuse, criminal peers, dysfunctional families, economic problems, and low self-esteem. The Operant-Utilitarian theory encompasses all the three aspects mentioned above, including family, social environment, and biological factors (XXXXX). It proposes that crime and criminal acts focus on shared factors of influence that compel criminal action in individuals as opposed to factors that are unique to an individual. Many people may harbor criminal thoughts but fail to act on them in their lifetime due to the resulting societal consequences.
Criminal behavior is intentional behavior that violates criminal code or morals defined by society. In this regard, the action would be deliberate in the sense that it was not accidental or without justification. Following this perspective, Siegel (2011) identifies a form of human interaction that influences his nature. Street crime develops through the interaction of three essential factors: the individual’s social environment, family relationships, and biological makeup of the individual defining this as operant-utilitarian theory. It should be noted that there are a variety of other theories that seek to explain criminal behavior. The operant-utilitarian theory identifies with three critical findings that human behavior is shaped by the aspects mentioned above. Cutler (2008) identifies that human behavior is a complex interaction of many factors. These factors encompass his past experiences, repeated actions that they still face today, and his genetic makeup that defines how he moderates emotional reactions and creates rational thoughts subjective to a variety of factors such as diet and economic well-being. Summarily, the theory on operant-utilitarian acknowledges that the individual actions and motivations for crime do not come from an innate need to conduct a crime. This can also be the case in classical conditioning, whereby classical conditioning is not the only reason they have to commit crimes.
Operant-utilitarian conditioning shows human behavior is subjective to their unique environment dictated by social, organizational forces. This are unique social frameworks they gained from the larger society and historical organizations. They have worked to compelled specific communities within a broader social value system to live and work in a particular manner to exist. In this case, black and minority communities in the US through decades of discrimination and racism have experienced generation of low education, which translates to no jobs, dysfunctional families, rise in crime, and as such developed tolerance to criminal activities. The majority of the white populations who harbor various opportunities may perceive this failure differently when not all economic, social, and cultural factors are considered. Classical conditioning, which is the alternative theory, works to cleanse the larger society’s accountability for failures that perpetuate dysfunctional communities.
Others influence individuals in their socialization process that encompasses their environment and social level and also affects their biological makeup. They are borne out of the collective failures of the society to provide equal economic opportunities for all. This creates limited resources and high competition among individuals. Extreme competition establishes a justification for greed, violence, and other forms of treachery to achieve economic well-being. Witt (2016) identifies that in any society, the deprivation of need motivates people to act. The Operant conditioning theory, therefore, becomes essential in explaining why social value systems might encourage crime. This is because reinforcement learning (operant conditioning) allows an individual to create an association between a certain behavior and consequences by rewarding certain acts and punishing others coined by Skinner, in 1983 (McLeod, 2018). There are social organizations where criminal acts such as violence, drug sale, and other matters that may be regarded as social delinquencies are the order to the day due to historical inaccessibility. Acts of violence become justified, synonymous with rewarded elements in reinforcement learning. In a low-income family where a father resorts to selling drugs as the only way to pay for the child’s school fees or give them food and basic needs, moral decay and criminality become justified within the person’s perspective either consciously or unconsciously. This also applies to overexposure of dysfunctional families and collapsed social environment over time, causing them to reinforce the same attitudes as their failed generations. The relative rates in which events fitting to the behavioral collection are chosen are adapted as follow within the operant-utilitarian theory:
Social, environmental factors play a role in advancing criminal behavior. The motivation for criminal behavior manifests in many ways dictated by a person’s social environment. Erofeeva et al. (2019) identify that empirical research conducted showed that in minors and even adults, socio-psychological characteristics of groups that may be regarded deviant or criminal for adults stemmed from group needs, motives, norms and values (p135). This showed that most people acted in the interest if their social group they belonged to. This did not necessarily mean that they innately harbored criminal intent but were compelled by the group to act in this regard. Within the social element, a variety of risk factors were identified to play a role in encouraging criminal acts. Sheley (n.d.) shows that social deprivation or lack of moral code in communities that faced higher impediments often resulted in motivation, freedom, social constraints, skills, and opportunities for crime (p509). The motivation was a push in the will to deviate from order. Freedom implied to lack of ability to contextualize emotional losses. Skill and opportunity translated in higher numbers of people with the same background and need to act upon other elements. In this regard, Cutler (2008) identifies through research that, more often, victims of abuse and low social dysfunctional systems or neglect are more predisposed to violence.
The violence was to achieve material well being or just for fun, as they do not regard consequences to their action as necessarily being bad but their way of life. This allowed for the development of group mentality that also deviates from the law as it does not regard it. Massey and Brodmann (2014) identify that criminality in this regard can be controlled by changing peer environment, in schools, or by better access to essential services simplified as neighborhoods. Proving that the social organization and motivation for inclusion is critical in defining people. Massey and Brodmann (2014) identify that among adolescent criminality is more likely to occur due to testosterone, a sexual hormone that promotes physical strength and aggressive behavior. This is the biological aspect of crime. In social environments where institutional failure reigns, criminality has a better chance to survive. If no changes are made, this might transfer into adulthood.
Social, institutional failure propagates the rest of the two dimensions. With social failure comes limited employment amidst population growth. This leads to poverty that also may translate to crime, high rates of alcoholism, lower nutritional needs, and violence at home. The family relationship plays an exceptional role in defining how people perceive their world as it reinforces attitudes men and women harbor on gender, race, and classes of people they interact with in the future. Empirical research by Massey and Brodmann (2014) shows that in most family, male children who have a father that is imprisoned or jailed increased the degree to which criminality was expressed. Biologically, lack of a proper diet for a person’s development hinders how they perceive their world or their brain development. Cutler (2008) suggests that poor nutrition intake leads has been shown to provide poor impulse control, inappropriate and excessive aggression, antisocial behavior, non-optimal brain functionality, among other aspects. This were key ingredients for criminality. Criminality is motivated by avenues for aggression. Rafter, Posick, and Roqcue (2016) identify that people with antisocial behaviors often become obsessed with sex, are aggressive when threatened, and find it hard to maintain a job or friendship, stemming from brain deficit or a gene of antisociality (p281). As such, when other risk factors such as violent peers, lack of resources, access to guns, skills, and opportunity to commit a crime occur, they will be more than likely to pursue this option.
Crime is a significant aspect of every society. Crime impacts how people make laws and define their social interaction. It also defines how people view other people within their community. Not all criminal behavior stems from a bad place. For example, killing someone in self-defense may not necessarily be considered criminal, although the aspect of killing is in on itself a crime. This implies that crime is subjective to motive. Within every society, there are rules, laws, and regulations that allow people to conceptualize crime and feel the need to regard an action as criminal or otherwise. This is even though it may happen within the sphere of criminality. People are motivated to commit crime by a variety of function within the community. Within the society, news articles often expose crimes committed out of greed, self-defense, deprivation of basic or emergent need for one’s survival, etc. A parent may decide to rob a hotel full of food, or chemistry to feed their child who may have been hungry or provide them expensive medicine that they could not afford or be out of their reach at the time. The operant-utilitarian theory identifies that crime stems from social organization/ environment and factors that predispose the community to limited resources. It also stems from dysfunctional families as well as from biological factors that propagated through lousy parenting or lack of resources to provide the child with decent space for their physical and mental growth.
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