Describe How Social Cognition Can Explain Criminal Behaviour.

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Describe how social cognition can explain criminal behaviour. Cognition has been recognised as an explanation of why an individual turns to crime. This term is applied to the mental processes that determine our actions, feelings and beliefs. Social cognition explores how our thoughts are influenced by the people we associate with. Additionally psychologists look at social cognition the other way round, to determine social phenomena through an individuals’ cognitions. Psychologist Gudjohnsson was one of the main researchers into social cognition. His Study with Bownes looked into the attribution of blame and type of crime committed. In this particular study it is important to note that our behaviour can be caused by internal attributions and external attributions. Internal being where a person attributes the cause of behaviour within themselves and external referring to the social and environmental factors - blaming the situation. Gudjohnsson and Bownes used a sample of 80 criminals who were serving sentences in Northern Ireland. They were all divided into groups. One group had 20 subjects who were violent criminals, whose mean age was 29. Another group included 40 sex offenders, who induced crimes such as rape, paedophilia and sexual assaults. Their mean age varied from 41 for the paedophiles down to 28 for the other assaults. The last group of 20 had committed property offences involving theft and burglary, their mean age was 29. The procedure involved the use of the ‘Blame Attribution Inventory’, this measured the offender’s type of offence and attribution of blame in three aspects: internal/external, mental element and guilt. The results exposed the sex offenders as feeling the most guilt with a mean score of 12.7, and the violent criminals followed with a score of 8.1. External attribution scores show the sex offenders with the least score of 2.4
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