Are some people “born criminals” whose lawless nature is biologically determined? The answer depends on the theory of human behavior. Biosocial theories study the ways in which biological characteristics interact with other factors to “shape” a person’s behavior. Some biosocial theorists argue that criminals do not seem to learn from their mistakes because they have impaired Autonomic Nervous Systems (ANS). According to these theorists, the normal ANS responds to environmental cues so the individual learns from them; however, a person with an impaired ANS will be slower to pick up on those cues and slower to mature or learn from them. Biosocial theories also consider numerous other factors that may interact with biological characteristics to form criminal behavior, such as: nutritional deficiencies, including lack of vitamins/ minerals required for normal functioning; hormonal influences, including testosterone; allergies, usually to foods such as milk, corn, wheat, chocolate, eggs and nuts; environmental contaminants, including food dyes, copper, artificial coloring, mercury and chlorine. In any event, a key to understanding biosocial theories is that they study the ways in which factors interact with biological characteristics to shape behavior.
Biological theories, on the other hand, focus on “born criminals” whose criminal nature is determined biologically and who can be recognized through specific physical characteristics. This theory was established in 1876 in On Criminal Man by Cesare Lombroso, an Italian professor of medicine who is sometimes called “the Father of Modern Criminology.” Lombroso measured certain physical characteristics of known criminals and devised a list of attributes that revealed an “atavistic” person – an evolutionary throwback who was less evolved than normal people and was a born criminal. According to Lombroso, some of the telltale physical signs of the “Criminal Man” are excessive hairiness, sharp teeth, long arms and long fingers. Lombroso claimed that the Criminal Man was biologically, instinctively criminal and had no free will, which meant that he is not morally responsible for the crimes he commits. Later theorists expounded on and expanded Lomboso’s work; however, Lombroso is still considered the major theorist of the biological “Criminal Man.”
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