Emotions, Choice, and Crime

Michael L. Benson and Tara Livelsberger

in The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199747238
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Emotions, Choice, and Crime

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  • Theories of Crime



According to the rational choice theory, criminals, like all people, are rational actors and their criminal behavior is the result of rational choices that they make in light of situational contingencies. These ideas are of interest to criminological theory for a number of reasons. For example, the rational choice perspective suggests a very simple but very general principle to explain criminal behavior: that individuals always attempt to behave so as to maximize the expected benefits in relation to the costs of their actions. This article advances the rational choice perspective by looking at recent developments in the biology and sociology of emotions. Rationality is an important, but not the only or most important, aspect of human behavior. The article first examines how emotions have been conceptualized and used in standard criminological theories. It then describes the biological bases of emotions and the implications of how the brain works for rational choice theory. Finally, it argues that advances in neuroscience should be incorporated into criminology.

Keywords: rational choice theory; criminal behavior; emotions; criminological theory; criminology; neuroscience; biology; sociology

Article.  8181 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Theories of Crime

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