, Volume 58, Issue 5, pp 563-565
Date: 07 Nov 2012

Book Review: The criminal mind

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People’s mental processes, particularly how they see and understand other people, change as they grow, and the criminal law should take this into account. Vastly oversimplified, this is the fundamental premise of The Mind of the Criminal: The Role of Developmental Social Cognition in Criminal Defense Law, Reid Griffith Fontaine’s elegant tour of seven areas of the American criminal justice system’s recognition—or failure to recognize—the new “social-cognitive jurisprudence.”

What can psychological research concerning how people develop their understanding of, views about and feelings toward, others, offer the criminal justice system? We all attach meaning, undertake behaviors and have emotions in response to the words and actions of others (social information), and how we do that depends upon our social cognition. Theories of social cognition, most significantly social information processing (SIP) theory, seek to explain why individuals respond differently (sometimes violently) to these ...