Skip to main content

Advertisement

Log in

Individual Differences in the Deterrence Process: Which Individuals Learn (Most) from Their Offending Experiences?

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Journal of Quantitative Criminology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Objectives

To test whether individuals differ in deterrability by studying whether the effect of criminal experiences on perceived detection risk varies by criminal propensity.

Methods

Data from the British “Offending, Crime and Justice Survey”, a four-wave panel study on criminal behavior and victimization, are analyzed. Two subsamples for analyses are constructed: one of non-offenders at first measurement, to analyze the effect of gaining first offending experiences during the time of study (n = 1,279) and one sample of individuals who have committed offenses within the past year (n = 567), to analyze the effect of police contact among active offenders. Fixed-effects regressions of perceived detection risk on criminal experiences and interactions between criminal experiences and measures of criminal propensity (risk-affinity, impulsivity) are estimated.

Results

Analyses support learning models for the formation and change of risk perceptions, but individual differences by criminal propensity are present in the deterrence process: After gaining first offending experiences, impulsive individuals as well as risk-averse individuals are more likely to lower their perceptions about the probability of detection than less impulsive or risk-affine individuals are. A positive effect of police contact on expected detection risk is restricted to risk-averse individuals.

Conclusions

Findings support claims that deterrence works differently for crime-prone individuals. The differential effects of impulsivity and risk-affinity underline the importance of not combining constituent characteristics of criminal propensity in composite indices, because they might have differential effects on deterrence.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. Like most previous research, the remainder of this article focuses on perceptions about detection risk. I will return to perceptions about the severity of sanctions in the discussion section.

  2. An alternative explanation for this finding could be that individuals who have more realistic estimates of getting caught self-select into crime. Even with elaborate statistical models, such dynamic selection processes are hard to disentangle from true causal effects (Bjerk 2009).

  3. The main distinctions between low self-control and TRDM are rooted in a broad notion of low self-control, which was originally stated by Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) and often measured with a scale with six subdimensions—the Grasmick et al. (1993) self-control scale. Back then, low self-control was described as a multidimensional trait consisting of such diverse things as “low cognitive and academic skills, a desire for easy and immediate gratification, a preference for physical rather than mental activity, enjoyment of thrilling (…) activities, a lack of perseverance, being ill-tempered, and self-centered” (Paternoster and Pogarsky 2009, p. 109). Furthermore, low self-control was seen by Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) as a stable personal trait, which is supposed to be the result of effective childrearing and largely unalterable after childhood, while Paternoster and Pogarsky (2009) regard TRDM as variable across situations and changeable over the life-course. Amongst others, brain maturation is assumed to lead to better executive functioning, which might lead to improvement in TRDM by increasing the ability for the delay of gratification and decreasing the discount rate (Paternoster and Pogarsky 2009, p. 105).

  4. It was assessed whether the respondent had ever stolen a vehicle, tried to steal a vehicle, had stolen parts from the outside of a vehicle, stolen from inside a vehicle, or tried to steal from outside or inside of a vehicle (vehicle theft offenses), whether the respondent had damaged a vehicle or damaged anything else on purpose (criminal damage offense), whether the respondent had committed domestic or commercial burglary (burglary offense), whether the respondent had stolen from another person, from work, from school, from a shop or anything else (other theft offense), whether the respondent had assaulted with or without injury and whether the respondent had committed commercial or personal robbery (violent offense) and whether the respondent had sold class-A drugs or other drugs (drug offense).

  5. To check for the robustness of results, all individuals transitioning to offender status were combined into one category and analyses were estimated again without 27 cases with police contact early in their criminal career. Results remained robust (coefficient of the offender effect = −3.39, t = −1.92).

  6. Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for this observation.

  7. Thanks again to an anonymous reviewer for drawing my attention to this option.

References

  • Akers RL, Sellers CS (2009) Criminological theories. Introduction, evaluation, and application. Oxford University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Allison PD (2009) Fixed effects regression models. Sage Publications, Los Angeles

    Google Scholar 

  • Andrews DA, Bonta J, Wormith JS (2006) The recent past and near future of risk and/or need assessment. Crime Delinq 52:7–27

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Anwar S, Loughran TA (2011) Testing a bayesian learning theory of deterrence among serious juvenile offenders. Criminology 49:667–698

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Apospori E, Alpert G (1993) Research note: the role of differential experience with the criminal justice system in changes in perceptions of severity of legal sanctions over time. Crime Delinq 39:184–194

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Apospori E, Alpert GP, Paternoster R (1992) The effect of involvement with the criminal justice system: a neglected dimension of the relationship between experience and perceptions. Justice Q 9:379–392

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bandura A (1977) Social learning theory. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs

    Google Scholar 

  • Becker GS (1968) Crime and punishment: an economic approach. J Polit Econ 76:169–217

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bentham J (1970 [1781]) An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation. Clarendon Press, Oxford

  • Bjerk D (2009) How much can we trust causal interpretations of fixed-effects estimators in the context of criminality? J Quant Criminol 25:391–417

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Breen R (1999) Beliefs, rational choice and bayesian learning. Ration Soc 11:463–479

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cochran JK, Aleksa V, Sanders BA (2008) Are persons low in self-control rational and deterrable? Deviant Behav 29:461–483

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dahlbäck O (2003) Analyzing rational crime. Models and methods. Kluwer, Dordrecht

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Eifler S, Schulz S (2007) Rational Choice, Handlungskontrolle und Alltagskriminalität. Soziale Probleme 18:139–162

    Google Scholar 

  • Fiske ST, Taylor SE (2008) Social cognition. Addison-Wesley, Reading

    Google Scholar 

  • Fry M (1951) Arms of the law. Victor Gollancz, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Gottfredson MR (2011) Sanctions, situations, and agency in control theories of crime. Eur J Criminol 8:128–143

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gottfredson MR, Hirschi T (1990) A general theory of crime. Stanford University Press, Stanford

    Google Scholar 

  • Grasmick HG, Bryjak GJ (1980) The deterrent effect of perceived severity of punishment. Soc Forces 59:471–491

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grasmick HG, Tittle CR, Bursik JR, Arneklev B (1993) Testing the core empirical implications of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime. J Res Crime Delinq 30:5–29

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hales J, Nevill C, Pudney S, Tipping S (2009) Longitudinal analysis of the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey. Home Office Research Report 19. Retrieved 13 Aug 2012 from http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs09/horr19c.pdf

  • Hamlyn B, Maxwell C, Hales J, Tait C (2003) Crime & Justice Survey (England and Wales). Technical Report. National Centre for Social Research & BMRB

  • Hamlyn B, Maxwell C, Phelps A, Anderson T, Arch J, Pickering K, Tait C (2004) Crime & Justice Survey 2004 (England and Wales). Technical Report. National Centre for Social Research & BMRB

  • Home Office. Research, Development and Statistics Directorate. Offending Surveys and Research, National Centre for Social Research and BMRB. Social Research (2009) Offending, Crime and Justice Survey, 2003-2006: Longitudinal Analysis Data [computer file]. UK Data Archive [distributor], Colchester, Essex

  • Horney J, Marshall IH (1992) Risk perceptions among serious offenders: the role of crime and punishment. Criminology 30:575–594

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kroneberg C, Heintze I, Mehlkop G (2010) The interplay of moral norms and instrumental incentives in crime causation. Criminology 48:259–294

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lochner L (2007) Individual perceptions of the criminal justice system. Am Econ Rev 97:444–460

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Loughran T, Paternoster R, Piquero AR, Fagan J (2011) ‘A good man always knows his limitations’: overconfidence in criminal offending—Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 11-264. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1772185

  • Loughran TA, Piquero AR, Fagan J, Mulvey EP (2012) Differential deterrence: studying heterogeneity and changes in perceptual deterrence among serious youthful offenders. Crime Delinq 58:3–27

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Matsueda RL, Kreager DA, Huizinga D (2006) Deterring delinquents: a rational choice model of theft and violence. Am Sociol Rev 71:95–122

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McCarthy B (2002) New economics of sociological criminology. Annu Rev Sociol 28:417–442

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morgan SL (2005) On the edge of commitment—educational attainment and race in the United States. Stanford University Press, Stanford

    Google Scholar 

  • Nagin D (1998) Criminal deterrence research at the outset of the 21st century. In: Tonry M (ed) Crime and justice: a review of research, vol 23. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 1–42

    Google Scholar 

  • Nagin DS, Paternoster R (1993) Enduring individual differences and rational choice theories of crime. Law Soc Rev 27:467–496

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nagin DS, Paternoster R (1994) Personal capital and social control: the deterrence implications of a theory of individual differences in offending. Criminology 32:581–606

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nagin DS, Pogarsky G (2001) Integrating celerity, impulsivity, and extra-legal sanction threats into a model of general deterrence: theory and evidence. Criminology 39:865–891

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nagin DS, Cullen FT, Lero-Jonson C (2009) Imprisonment and reoffending. In: Tonry M (ed) Crime and justice: a review of research, vol 38. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 115–200

    Google Scholar 

  • Paternoster R, Pogarsky G (2009) Rational choice, agency and thoughtfully reflective decision making: the short and long-term consequences of making good choices. J Quant Criminol 25:103–127

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Paternoster R, Pogarsky G, Zimmerman G (2011) Thoughtfully reflective decision making and the accumulation of capital: bringing choice back in. J Quant Criminol 27:1–26

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pilliavin I, Gartner R, Thornton C, Matsueda RL (1986) Crime, deterrence and rational choice. Am Sociol Rev 51:101–119

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Piquero AR, Paternoster R (1998) An application of Stafford and Warr’s reconceptualization of deterrence to drinking and driving. J Res Crime Delinq 35:3–39

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Piquero AR, Pogarsky G (2002) Beyond Stafford and Warr’s reconceptualization of deterrence: personal and vicarious experiences, impulsivity, and offending behavior. J Res Crime Delinq 39:153–186

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Piquero AR, Tibbetts SG (1996) Specifying the direct and indirect effects of low self-control and situational factors in offenders’ decision making: toward a more complete model of rational offending. Justice Q 13:481–510

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Piquero AR, Paternoster R, Pogarsky G, Loughran T (2011) Elaborating the individual difference component in deterrence theory. Annu Rev Law Soc Sci 7:335–360

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pogarsky G (2002) Identifying deterrable offenders: implications for research on deterrence. Justice Q 19:431–452

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pogarsky G (2007) Deterrence and individual differences among convicted offenders. J Quant Criminol 23:59–74

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pogarsky G, Piquero AR, Paternoster R (2004) Modeling change in perceptions about sanction threats: the neglected linkage in deterrence theory. J Quant Criminol 20:343–369

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pratt TC, Cullen FT, Blevins KR, Daigle LE, Madensen TD (2006) The empirical status of deterrence theory: a meta-analysis. In: Cullen FT, Wright JP, Blevins KR (eds) Taking stock: the status of criminological theory. Transaction, New Brunswick, pp 367–395

    Google Scholar 

  • Raine A (1996) Autonomic nervous system factors underlying disinhibited, antisocial, and violent behavior. Biosocial perspectives and treatment implications. Ann NY Acad Sci 794:46–59

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rotter JB (1966) Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychol Monogr 80:1–28

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sitren AH, Applegate BK (2007) Testing the deterrent effects of personal and vicarious experience with punishment and punishment avoidance. Deviant Behav 28:29–55

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stafford MC, Warr M (1993) A reconceptualization of general and specific deterrence. J Res Crime Delinq 30:123–135

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thomas KJ, Loughran TA, Piquero AR (2012, online first) Do individual characteristics explain variation in sanction risk updating among serious juvenile offenders? Advancing the logic of differential deterrence. Law Hum Behav

  • Tibbetts SG, Myers DL (1999) Low self-control, rational choice, and student test cheating. Am J Crim Justice 23:179–200

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tittle CR (1980) Sanctions and social deviance: the question of deterrence. Praeger, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Tittle CR, Botchkovar EV (2005) Self-control, criminal motivation and deterrence: an investigation using Russian respondents. Criminology 43:307–354

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Turanovic J, Pratt T (2012) “Can’t stop, won’t stop”: self-control, risky lifestyles, and repeat victimization. J Quant Criminol. doi:10.1007/s10940-012-9188-4

  • Wikström PH (2012) Breaking rules. The social and situational dynamics of young people’s urban crime. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Williams KR, Hawkins R (1986) Perceptual research on general deterrence: a critical review. Law Soc Rev 20:545–572

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wilson JQ, Herrnstein RJ (1985) Crime and human nature—the definitive study of the causes of crime. Free Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Wooldridge JM (2010) Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data. MIT Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Wright BRE, Caspi A, Moffitt TE, Paternoster R (2004) Does the perceived risk of punishment deter criminally prone individuals? Rational choice, self-control, and crime. J Res Crime Delinq 41:180–213

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zuckerman M (1979) Sensation seeking. Beyond the optimal level of arousal. Erlbaum, Hillsdale

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The Offending, Crime and Justice Survey was commissioned by the UK Home Office (http://homeoffice.gov.uk/). Data for analyses in this paper were obtained via the UK Data Archive (http://www.data-archive.ac.uk/). Neither the original data creators nor the UK Data Archive bear responsibility for the present analysis or interpretation. I am grateful to Clemens Kroneberg, Harald Beier and the anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sonja Schulz.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Schulz, S. Individual Differences in the Deterrence Process: Which Individuals Learn (Most) from Their Offending Experiences?. J Quant Criminol 30, 215–236 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-013-9201-6

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-013-9201-6

Keywords

Navigation