A Literature Review

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A Literature Review

Eimear Eves '' B00344400
Module '' Research Methods PUP 313
Tutor '' Trevor Currans

‘Is there a creditable link between criminality and biology, does it predispose peoples inclination towards criminality?’


The main objective of this literature review is to identify different approaches and research on the idea that biology and criminal behaviour are linked in some way. I will use three separate literature articles from philosophers in this field surrounding the subject of biological criminology and assess their credibility in today’s society. Bio criminology does not have a general explanation for crime, but draws upon human genetics and neurobiology to account and explain the reasons in the growing social problem of violent and anti '' social conduct that we have been faced with throughout history and that of which is still very prominent in today’s culture of crime. In order to grasp the idea of bio criminology and weather it has any substance I will focus on past and present ideas ranging from the early works of Ceasares Lombroso’s notion that phenotypic traits such as skull size, shape and length of arms belong to that of criminals to works of Lee Ellis, a theory explaining biological correlates of criminality. Ellis introduces the evolutionary nueroandrogenic theory (ENA). My third literature article is that of theoretical criminology and the biology of culpability by Nikolas Rose, which is an overview of the bio criminology works and research to date. My aim is to review these three academic pieces in order to gain a more insightful knowledge into the world of biological criminology resulting in a wider understanding of the long history and controversial debate of biology and crime and their relation if any to one another.

Criminal Man - Cesare Lombroso (1835 '' 1909)
Crime and biology began with the work of Ceasare Lombroso in the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. Lombroso was an internationally famous physician and criminologist. He was a scientist looking for a rational explanation of the phenomena of crime. He believed that with understanding of the workings of it would bring about the ability to change, improve or remove behaviour. Much influenced by Darwinian theory, Lombroso sought to apply this to crime, with an aim of trying to determine what made man criminal. He began theorising about a possible relationship between particular physical features and the likelihood of engaging in crime. He started with physiognomy '' the study of facial features and phrenology '' the study of the shape of the skull. He carried out many experiments and his conclusions summed up were as follows. ‘Criminals were tall men, with thick crisp hair, thin beards, dark skin, pointed skulls, oblique eyes, small craniums, overdeveloped jaws and receding foreheads.’ While reading Lombroso’s ‘Criminal Man’ for the purpose of my research I was shocked at the bizarre conclusions that Lombroso came to. While he has left a lasting impression on the world of criminology, I personally found his work very outdated and primitive. The idea that ‘criminals bear a strong resemblance to Australian aborigines and Mongols’ is something of a sweeping statement with no supporting evidence and Lombroso tends to make a lot of these throughout ‘Criminal Man.’ Lombroso’s work however, for the purpose of my research question is relevant as he was one of the first to suggest that there could possibly be a link between biology and criminality, through his concept of the ‘Born criminal.’ Obviously his work today had largely been discredited and since Lombroso’s methods of research and experimental ways were not rigorous by today’s standards, they gave rise to subsequent scientific scorn for his methodology. However, even though today we would consider Lombroso’s ‘Criminal Man’ to be of little relevance to biology and crime, he did come up with some very modern ideas and views that are now...
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