Cause or Catalyst: The Interaction of Real World and Media Crime Models
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The effect of exposure to media content containing criminal models is unresolved with two perspectives currently competing. One perspective perceives media provided models of crime functioning as direct causes of criminality or as crime triggers; the other sees media crime models serving as crime forming catalysts or as crime rudders. A study of copycat crime provided an opportunity to simultaneously weigh evidence for both models by examining the comparative roles of real world versus media provided crime models. Data obtained from the anonymous surveys of 574 male and female correctional inmates was employed. Results show that individual offenders, particularly young males, exposed to both real world and media crime model sources were at higher risk for copying criminal behaviors. While both real world and media sources contributed to predicting past inmate copycat behaviors, they also interacted significantly. With the additional enhancement of real world models, the media appear to form crime by providing instructional models to inclined individuals. The results did not support strong direct media exposure effects and the model of media as stylistic catalysts for crime was more supported. The media remains best perceived as a rudder for crime more than as a trigger.
KeywordsCopycat crime Crime models Interaction effects Media catalyst Criminogenic media
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