History of Violence

Kevin Lewis

January 27, 2011

Breaking the Rules to Rise to Power: How Norm Violators Gain Power in the Eyes of Others

Gerben Van Kleef et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Powerful people often act at will, even if the resulting behavior is inappropriate - hence the famous proverb "power corrupts." Here, we introduce the reverse phenomenon - violating norms signals power. Violating a norm implies that one has the power to act according to one's own volition in spite of situational constraints, which fuels perceptions of power. Four studies support this hypothesis. Individuals who took coffee from another person's can (Study 1), violated rules of bookkeeping (Study 2), dropped cigarette ashes on the floor (Study 3), or put their feet on the table (Study 4) were perceived as more powerful than individuals who did not show such behaviors. The effect was mediated by inferences of volitional capacity, and it replicated across different methods (scenario, film clip, face-to-face interaction), different norm violations, and different indices of power (explicit measures, expected emotions, and approach/inhibition tendencies). Implications for power, morality, and social hierarchy are discussed.


From Columbine to Palestine: A Comparative Analysis of Rampage Shooters in the United States and Volunteer Suicide Bombers in the Middle East

Adam Lankford & Nayab Hakim
Aggression and Violent Behavior, forthcoming

Previous research comparing rampage shooters in the U.S. and volunteer suicide bombers in the Middle East appears to be virtually non-existent. When these two types of suicidal killers have been mentioned in the same context, it has primarily been to dismiss any possible connections. Rampage shooters are generally assumed to be mentally unbalanced, while suicide bombers are seen as extreme, but rational, political actors. However, this review explores the possibility that the primary differences between the two types of killers are cultural, not individual, and that in terms of their underlying psychology and motivation, they are actually quite similar. In both cases, substantial evidence indicates that these perpetrators of murder-suicide share many of the following characteristics: (1) they had troubled childhoods, (2) they lived in oppressive social environments, (3) they suffered from low self-esteem, (4) they were triggered by a personal crisis, (5) they were seeking revenge, and (6) they were seeking fame and glory.


Reasons to be Fearful, One, Two, Three: The ‘Preventing Violent Extremism' Agenda

David Stevens
British Journal of Politics & International Relations, forthcoming

In an oft-neglected chapter of his Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith applies his economic arguments to the question of religious groups, arguing that a peaceable society is most efficiently secured not by state sponsorship of religion, but by an absence of support; in essence a free market of religious ideas. This article applies Smith's insights, and the wealth of supporting material from the intervening years, to the question of Islamic radicalisation in the UK. Contrary to current attempts to produce and support ‘moderate' Islamic groups via state subsidy, I argue that such action actually runs the risk of fuelling extremism. The UK's Preventing Violent Extremism agenda is based on a mistaken assumption about why individuals join radical groups, as well as a false picture of how religious groups operate.


The Violent South: Culture of Honor, Social Disorganization, and Murder in Appalachia

Viviana Andreescu, John Eagle Shutt & Gennaro Vito
Criminal Justice Review, March 2011, Pages 76-103

Nisbett and Cohen contended that consistently higher argument-related homicide rates in the South are a result of early historical and economic circumstances of the frontier that contributed to the development of a persistent ‘‘culture of honor,'' which legitimized violence in response to provocations. Using 1990-1992 argument-related homicide data for Appalachian counties and considering the effect of the religious culture, this study attempts to reexamine Cohen's finding that social stability increased honor/argument-related homicide rates in the American South but had the opposite effect in the North. Although results show that interregional differences in homicide rate exist in Appalachia and could be explained by an existing ‘‘culture of honor'' reinforced by certain religious beliefs, this analysis did not find support for Cohen's hypotheses. Family stability appears to be a crime deterrent in both subregions, though the relationship is not significant. Community stability is positively related to homicide rates in both subregions, but the effect is significant in the North and not in the South, as Cohen predicted. In addition, when controlling for relevant structural covariates, the authors found that counties where most adherents belonged to a conservative Protestant denomination had on average significantly higher argument-related homicide rates, whereas counties with most Roman Catholic adherents had significantly lower murder rates.


The association between county-level IQ and county-level crime rates

Kevin Beaver & John Paul Wright
Intelligence, January-February 2011, Pages 22-26

An impressive body of research has revealed that individual-level IQ scores are negatively associated with criminal and delinquent involvement. Recently, this line of research has been extended to show that state-level IQ scores are associated with state-level crime rates. The current study uses this literature as a springboard to examine the potential association between county-level IQ and county-level crime rates. Analysis of data drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health revealed statistically significant and negative associations between county-level IQ and the property crime rate, the burglary rate, the larceny rate, the motor vehicle theft rate, the violent crime rate, the robbery rate, and the aggravated assault rate. Additional analyses revealed that these associations were not confounded by a measure of concentrated disadvantage that captures the effects of race, poverty, and other social disadvantages of the county. We discuss the implications of the results and note the limitations of the study.


Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Hurt: Longitudinal Effects of Exposure to Violence on Children's Aggressive Behavior

Izaskun Orue et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Children witness violence at home, at school, in their neighborhood, and in the media. Children may also experience violence, as a victim, at home, at school, and in their neighborhood. A longitudinal study tested whether children who are exposed to a heavy dose of violence come to regard it as normal behavior and subsequently behave more aggressively themselves. Participants were 777 children (8 to 12 years old) who completed questionnaires twice (6 months apart) about exposure to violence (witnessed and experienced), their own aggression, the aggression of peers, and normative beliefs about aggression. The results showed that witnessing violence predicted increases in aggression 6 months later through changes in normative beliefs. Likewise, experiencing aggression as a victim predicted increases in aggression 6 months later through changes in normative beliefs. These findings show that when children think violence is commonplace in many contexts, they are more likely to aggress against others.


Stalkers and intelligence: Implications for treatment

R.D. MacKenzie et al.
Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, December 2010, Pages 852-872

The role of psychiatric services in assessing and treating stalkers is increasingly apparent from the high prevalence of stalking and of mental disorder amongst perpetrators. Treatment involves both pharmacotherapy and, crucially, a range of psychological interventions. Design of treatment programmes must necessarily reflect the cognitive abilities of the patients. The psychiatric literature on stalking assumes that stalkers are of above-average intelligence, despite there being no systematic study to support this. We undertook prospective psychiatric evaluation of 147 stalkers referred to a specialist clinic, with the administration of Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI), and compared them with general population norms and an offender sample. Mean stalker intelligent quotient (IQ) was 91.59 (SD 16.2). Only 36% had completed high school. Verbal IQ (VIQ) was significantly lower than performance IQ (PIQ) (p < .001). Previous assumptions about intelligence in stalking appear simplistic and misleading. The verbal/performance deficit is important with regard to the design and delivery of treatment interventions.


Talking Heads: Crime Reporting on Cable News

Natasha Frost & Nickie Phillips
Justice Quarterly, February 2011, Pages 87-112

In this study, we examine the extent to which criminologists and other academics participate in newsmaking criminology as guests on cable news shows. Building on earlier examinations of print media, we explore the ways in which crime is portrayed on popular cable television news programs (airing on CNN, FOX, MSNBC). Specifically, we examine 180 segments devoted to crime on cable news that aired from June to August 2006, with an emphasis on the role of the 347 guests appearing in those segments and their perspectives on crime causation and crime control. We find that criminologists and other academic experts infrequently appear on these programs, and that guests-regardless of type-only rarely address crime causation or crime control when appearing.


Imprisonment and crime: Can both be reduced?

Steven Durlauf & Daniel Nagin
Criminology & Public Policy, February 2011, Pages 13-54

"The evidentiary bases for our conclusion are taken from recent reviews of the empirical studies on deterrence conducted by the authors and colleagues. These reviews led us to the following broad empirical conclusions that inform our policy views: (1) The marginal deterrent effect of increasing already lengthy prison sentences is modest at best. (2) Increasing the visibility of the police by hiring more officers and by allocating existing officers in ways that heighten the perceived risk of apprehension consistently seem to have substantial marginal deterrent effects. (3) The experience of imprisonment compared with non-custodial sanctions such as probation, sometimes called specific deterrence, does not seem to prevent reoffending. Instead, the evidence suggests the possibility of a criminogenic effect from imprisonment...[W]e discuss the conceptual framework for the determination of criminal behavior that explains why, theoretically, crime can be reduced without an increase in the resource commitment to the criminal justice system. The theoretical possibility of a cost-free reduction derives from a shift toward certainty-based as opposed to severity-based sanction policies. We also argue that for a sanction policy to reduce both imprisonment and crime simultaneously, it must deter in addition to incapacitate would-be criminals. Thus, the possibility of deterrence is crucial to the goal of reducing prison populations without incurring higher crime rates."


A quasi-experimental investigation of self-reported offending and perception of criminal opportunity in undergraduate students

Jeanette Garwood
Security Journal, February 2011, Pages 37-51

This investigation has been designed to test the hypothesis that individuals who admit to a greater variety of offending also perceive more criminal and nuisance/deviant uses for everyday objects. A quasi-experimental design was employed, with level of self-reported offending as the quasi-experimental variable, and percentage of criminal/delinquent uses given, as the dependent variable; 107 students took part in the study. Results supported the hypothesis: those who self-report a high offending rate also generate more criminal uses for everyday objects. Results are discussed within an applications framework.


The Severe 5%: A Latent Class Analysis of the Externalizing Behavior Spectrum in the United States

Michael Vaughn et al.
Journal of Criminal Justice, forthcoming

Objective: Criminological research consistently demonstrates that approximately 5% of study populations are comprised of pathological offenders who account for a preponderance of antisocial behavior and violent crime. Unfortunately, there have been no nationally representative epidemiological studies characterizing the severe 5% group. Materials and Methods: Data from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a nationally representative sample of 43,093 non-institutionalized U.S. residents aged 18 years and older were analyzed using latent class analysis to assess sociodemographic, psychiatric, and behavioral characteristics.

Results: Four-classes of respondents were identified vis-à-vis lifetime externalizing behaviors. A normative class (66.1% of respondents) demonstrated little involvement in antisocial conduct. A low substance use/high antisocial behavior class (20.7% of respondents) and high substance use/moderate antisocial behavior (8.0% of respondents) class evinced diverse externalizing and psychiatric symptoms. Finally, a severe class (5.3% of respondents) was characterized by pathological involvement in more varied and intensive forms of antisocial and externalizing behaviors and extensive psychiatric disturbance.

Conclusions: The current study is the first nationally representative epidemiological study of criminal careers/externalizing behavior spectrum in the United States and validates the existence of the 5% pathological group demonstrated by prior research.


Perceived Popularity During Early Adolescence: Links to Declining School Adjustment Among Aggressive Youth

Wendy Troop-Gordon, Kari Visconti & Kayla Kuntz
Journal of Early Adolescence, February 2011, Pages 125-151

Although positive peer relationships have been shown to promote healthy school involvement and academic achievement, subpopulations of perceived popular (i.e., socially prominent, high status), but aggressive, youth have been identified who exhibit poor school functioning. The objective of this study was to examine whether attainment of perceived popularity may be a contributing factor in the school difficulties of these aggressive youth. Data were collected from 208 early adolescents (95 boys; 113 girls) during the fall and spring of their fourth- and fifth-grade years. Latent growth curve analyses indicated that, for children with above-average levels of aggression, perceived popularity predicts trajectories of increasing school avoidance and declining academic performance. These results were significant even after accounting for how integrated children were in their social network (i.e., how many friends they had), providing further support to the contention that for aggressive youth, social status serves as a risk factor for school maladjustment.


Gender-specific expression of the DRD4 gene on adolescent delinquency, anger and thrill seeking

Julia Dmitrieva et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, January 2011, Pages 82-89

The present study investigated gender differences in the associations between the DRD4 variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) polymorphism and adolescent delinquency, short temper and thrill seeking. We also explored whether the gender-specific expression of the DRD4 can be explained by gender differences in the exposure to psychosocial risks, such as poor parent-child relationship. Participants were 263 14- to 17-year olds (50% males) living in Russia. DNA was extracted from saliva samples and the VNTR DRD4 polymorphisms were genotyped using polymerase chain reaction. Participants reported on the extent of their delinquent behaviour, short temper, thrill seeking and exposure to psychosocial risk (i.e. poor parental monitoring of adolescent behaviour, exposure to violence and peer delinquency). Compared to individuals with the 4/4 genotype, males, but not females, with the 7-repeat allele (7R) had significantly higher delinquency, short temper and thrill seeking. This interaction effect, however, was completely explained by males' higher exposure to psychosocial risk factors. When parental monitoring of youths' activities and youth exposure to violence were included in the model, the 7R × gender interaction was no longer significant. Thus, social context plays an important role in explaining gender-specific phenotypic expression of the DRD4 gene.


Psychopathy and gender differences in childhood psychosocial characteristics in homicide offenders - a nationwide register-based study

Ghitta Weizmann-Henelius et al.
Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, December 2010, Pages 801-814

Research on childhood psychosocial characteristics with regard to psychopathy in homicide offenders is lacking. The current study focused on gender differences in the association of childhood victimisation, adverse family factors and parental characteristics, and psychopathy. Forensic psychiatric examination reports of all female offenders (n = 102), subjected to forensic examination and convicted of homicide in 1993-2005 and corresponding male offenders (n = 463) in 1995-2004 were retrospectively analysed and assessed for childhood psychosocial characteristics and psychopathy using The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). The findings indicated that adverse childhood psychosocial characteristics increase the risk of psychopathy in both female and male homicide offenders. Although significant gender differences in relation to the total PCL-R scores were found only in childhood sexual abuse, differences emerged in the four factors. In conclusion, traumatic experiences are related to psychopathy in both female and male offenders and the association may, contrary to prior research, be even stronger in female than in male homicide offenders.


Central American maras: From youth street gangs to transnational protection rackets

Jos Miguel Cruz
Global Crime, November 2010, Pages 379-398

Most of the empirical research on Central American street gangs, called maras, has been published only in Spanish. Reviewing that literature, the American scholarship on gangs, and my own research on Central American gangs from the mid-1990s, this article depicts the processes through which the maras (Mara Salvatrucha and the Eighteenth Street Gang) evolved from youth street gangs in the late 1980s to protection rackets with features of transnational organisations. Intense migratory flows between El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and the United States, and the hard-line suppression policies against youth gangs in institutionally weak Central American countries created the conditions that prompted networking and organisation among Central American street gangs. This article highlights the changes in the dynamics of violence and the transformations in the gangs' social spaces to illustrate the evolution of the maras.


Specific extreme behaviors of postinstitutionalized Russian adoptees

Brandi Hawk & Robert McCall
Developmental Psychology, forthcoming

Behavior problems reported by parents on the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001) were studied in 316 children adopted from social-emotionally depriving Russian institutions as a function of age at adoption (18-month cutoff), age at assessment (6-11 and 12-18 years), and gender. Children adopted after 18 months had higher problem scores predominately when assessed at 12-18 years. Although most children had no behavior problems, 59.0% of later adoptees assessed in adolescence had at least 1 subscale score and 48.7% had 2 or more subscale scores in the clinical/borderline range. A factor analysis of items that significantly related to age at adoption for older children revealed 1 broad factor, encompassing different antisocial behaviors, social difficulties, and withdrawal. These results may suggest a somewhat broader deficiency produced by orphanage experience beyond the first 18 months of life that underlies a range of behavioral problems displayed later.


Specifying the Attentional Selection That Moderates the Fearlessness of Psychopathic Offenders

Arielle Baskin-Sommers, John Curtin & Joseph Newman
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Our previous research demonstrated that psychopathy-related fear deficits involve abnormalities in attention that undermine sensitivity to peripheral information. In the present study, we specified this attention-mediated abnormality in a new sample of 87 prisoners assessed with Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (Hare, 2003). We measured fear-potentiated startle (FPS) under four conditions that crossed attentional focus (threat vs. alternative) with early versus late presentation of threat cues. The psychopathic deficit in FPS was apparent only in the early-alternative-focus condition, in which threat cues were presented after the alternative goal-directed focus was established. Furthermore, psychopathy interacted with working memory capacity in the late-alternative-focus condition, which suggests that individuals high in psychopathy and working memory capacity were able to maintain a set-related alternative focus that reduced FPS. The results not only provide new evidence that attention moderates the fearlessness of psychopathic individuals, but also implicate an early attention bottleneck as a proximal mechanism for deficient response modulation in psychopathy.


Decision making in medium security: Can he have leave?

Marc Lyall & Annie Bartlett
Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, December 2010, Pages 887-901

This qualitative study investigates how the decision is taken to grant leave to patients in a forensic psychiatric in-patient medium secure unit. This study aims to understand better the process of decision making at multidisciplinary ward rounds. The study is based in a single medium secure unit. Data were collected by a researcher from ward rounds over a period of 15 months using non-participant observation. These data were subjected to content analysis. Two main thematic dialectics emerged: risk and humanity and power and responsibility. Leave decisions were made in 96 instances and risk, per se, was seldom explicitly discussed. This study raises key questions about the balance between explicit information and implicit clinical knowledge that underpins routine clinical decisions. This study is important because it has implications for the reliance on written records in the review of clinical practice, specifically in relation to serious acts of violence committed by psychiatric patients.


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