Choice in a Criminal Lifestyle

Part of the Palgrave's Frontiers in Criminology Theory book series (FCRT)


addresses the decision-making model that lifestyle theory employs to make sense of criminal decision-making. This chapter therefore elucidates the hedonistic and moral belief systems that lie at the heart of the decision-making process. It then moves into an exegesis of how reactive and proactive criminal thinking shape the criminal decision-making process further. Situational and development factors also contribute to the criminal decision-making process and so assume a prominent position in this chapter as well. A case example is used to illustrate how the decision-making model of criminal lifestyle theory operates.


Criminal decision-making Hedonistic and moral belief systems 


  1. Akers, R. L. (1990). Rational choice, deterrence, and social learning theory in criminology: The path not taken. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 81, 653–676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Tranel, D., & Damasio, A. R. (1997). Deciding advantageously before knowing the advantageous strategy. Science, 275, 1293–1295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker, G. S. (1968). Crime and punishment: An economic approach. Journal of Political Economy, 76, 169–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berumen, L. C., Rodriguez, A., Miledi, R., & Garcia-Alcocer, G. (2012). Serotonin receptors in hippocampus. Scientific World Journal, Article ID 823493 (15 pages).Google Scholar
  5. Blakemore, S. J., & Robbins, T. W. (2012). Decision-making in the adolescent brain. Nature Neuroscience, 15, 1184–1191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brand, M., Labudda, K., & Markowitsch, H. J. (2006). Neuropsychological correlates of decision-making in ambiguous and risky situations. Neural Networks, 19, 1266–1276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Breetzke, G. D., & Cohn, E. G. (2013). Burglary in gated communities: An empirical analysis using routine activities theory. International Criminal Justice Review, 23, 56–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carroll, J., & Weaver, F. (1986). Shoplifters’ perceptions of crime opportunities: A process-tracing study. In D. B. Cornish & R. V. Clarke (Eds.), The reasoning criminal: Rational choice perspectives on offending (pp. 19–31). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cernkovich, S. A., & Giordano, P. C. (1979). Delinquency, opportunity, and gender. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 70, 145–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chilver-Stainer, J., Gasser, L., & Perrig-Chiello, P. (2014). Children’s and adolescents’ moral emotion attributions and judgements about exclusion of peers with hearing impairments. Journal of Moral Education, 43, 235–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clarke, R. V., & Felson, M. (Eds.). (1993). Routine activity and rational choice. Advances in criminological theory (Vol. 5). New Brunswick: Transaction.Google Scholar
  12. Cloward, R. A., & Ohlin, L. E. (1960). Delinquency and opportunity. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  13. Cohen, L. E., & Felson, M. (1979). Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review, 44, 588–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cornish, D. B., & Clarke, R. V. (1985). Modeling offenders’ decisions: A framework for research and policy. In M. Tonry & N. Morris (Eds.), Crime and justice: An annual review of research (Vol. 6, pp. 147–185). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. Cornish, D. B., & Clarke, R. V. (Eds.). (1986). The reasoning criminal: Rational choice perspectives on offending. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  16. Crone, E. A., Bullens, L., van der Plas, E. A. A., Kijkuit, E. J., & Zelazo, P. D. (2008). Developmental changes and individual differences in risk and perspective taking in adolescence. Development and Psychopathology, 20, 1213–1229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Curzer, H. J. (2014). Tweaking the four-component model. Journal of Moral Education, 43, 104–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Decety, J. (2010). The neurodevelopment of empathy in humans. Developmental Neuroscience, 32, 257–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Decety, J., & Meyer, M. (2008). From emotion resonance to empathic understanding: A social developmental neuroscience account. Development and Psychopathology, 20, 1053–1080.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. De Haan, W., & Vos, J. (2003). A crying shame: The over-rationalized conception of man in the rational choice perspective. Theoretical Criminology, 7, 29–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Eisenberg, N., & Morris, A. S. (2004). Moral cognitions and prosocial responding in adolescence. In R. Lerner & L. Steinberg (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent psychology (2nd ed., pp. 155–188). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  22. Feeney, F. (1986). Robbers as decision-makers. In D. B. Cornish & R. V. Clarke (Eds.), The reasoning criminal: Rational choice perspectives on offending (pp. 53–71). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Felson, M. (1987). Routine activities and crime prevention in the developing metropolis. Criminology, 25, 911–931.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Felson, M. (1995). Those who discourage crime. In J. E. Eck & D. Weisburd (Eds.), Crime and place (Vol. 4, pp. 53–66)., Crime prevention studies Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.Google Scholar
  25. Felson, M., & Cohen, L. E. (1980). Human ecology and crime: A routine activity approach. Human Ecology, 8, 389–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gibbs, J. C. (2010). Moral development and reality: Beyond the theories of Kohlberg and Hoffman (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  27. Gogtay, N., Giedd, J. N., Lusk, L., Hayashi, K. M., Greenstein, D., …Thompson, P. M. (2004). Dynamic mapping of human cortical development during childhood through early adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101, 8174–8179.Google Scholar
  28. Gottfredson, M. R., & Hirschi, T. (1990). A general theory of crime. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Hanoch, Y., Rolison, J., & Gummerum, M. (2013). Good things come to those who wait: Time discounting differences between adult offenders and non-offenders. Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 128–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Harrell, E. (2012, December).Violent victimization committed by strangers, 1993‒2010. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report (NCJ 239424). Washington: U.S. Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  31. Hayward, K. (2007). Situational crime prevention and its discontents: Rational choice theory versus the ‘culture of now’. Social Policy and Administration, 41, 232–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Heineke, J. M. (Ed.). (1978). Economic models of criminal behavior (2nd ed.). Amsterdam: North Holland.Google Scholar
  33. Holt, T. J., & Bossler, A. M. (2009). Examining the applicability of lifestyle-routine activities theory for cybercrime victimization. Deviant Behavior, 30, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jessup, R. K., Bishara, A. J., & Busemeyer, J. R. (2008). Feedback produces divergence from prospect theory in descriptive choice. Psychological Science, 19, 1015–1022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kellert, S. (1994). In the wake of chaos. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  36. Kim, S., & Lee, D. (2011). Prefrontal cortex and impulsive decision making. Biological Psychiatry, 69, 1140–1146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kohlberg, L. (1984). The psychology of moral development: The nature and validity of moral stages. San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  38. Krettenauer, T., Jia, F., & Mosleh, M. (2011). The role of emotion expectancies in adolescents’ moral decision making. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 108, 358–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Leppanen, J. M., & Nelson, C. A. (2009). Tuning the developing brain to social signals of emotions. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10, 37–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Malti, T., & Krettenauer, T. (2013). The relation of moral emotion attributions to prosocial and antisocial behavior: A meta-analysis. Child Development, 84, 397–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Marcus, B. (2004). Self-control in the general theory of crime: Theoretical implications of a measurement problem. Theoretical Criminology, 8(1), 33–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Maruna, S., & Copes, H. (2005). What have we learned from five decades of neutralization research? Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, 32, 221–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mayer, R., & Wittrock, M. (2006). Problem-solving transfer. In D. Berliner & R. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 47–62). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  44. McCabe, K., Houser, D., Ryan, L., Smith, V., & Trouard, T. (2001). A functional imaging study of cooperation in two-person reciprocal exchange. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 98, 11832–11835.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Merton, R. K. (1957). Social theory and social structure (rev ed.). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  46. Mills, J. F., & Kroner, D. G. (2005). An investigation into the relationship between socially desirable responding and offender self-report. Psychological Services, 2, 70–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Nagin, D. S. (2013). Deterrence: A review of the evidence by a criminologist for economists. Annual Review of Economics, 5, 83–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Parent, A. (1986). Comparative neurobiology of the basal ganglia. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  49. Pizarro, N., Corsaro, N., & Yu, S.-S. V. (2007). Journey to crime and victimization: An application of routine activities theory and environmental criminology to homicide. Victims and Offenders, 2, 375–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pratt, T. C., & Cullen, F. T. (2005). Assessing macro-level predictors and theories of crime: A meta-analysis. Crime and Justice, 32, 373–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Reynolds, M. O. (1985). Crime by choice: An economic analysis. Dallas, TX: Fisher Institute.Google Scholar
  52. Schiebener, J., & Brand, M. (2015). Decision making under objective risk conditions—A review of cognitive and emotional correlates, strategies, feedback processing, and external influences. Neuropsychological Review, 25, 171–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Schuermann, B., Endrass, T., & Kathmann, N. (2012). Neural correlates of feedback processing in decision-making under risk. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, 204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Shipman, K. L., Zeman, J. L., & Stegall, S. (2001). Regulating emotionally expressive behavior: Implications of goals and social partner from middle childhood to adolescence. Child Study Journal, 31, 249–268.Google Scholar
  55. Shure, M. B., & Spivack, G. (1980). Interpersonal problem solving as a mediator of behavioral adjustment in preschool and kindergarten children. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 1, 29–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sowell, E. R., Thompson, P. M., Leonard, C. M., Welcome, S. E., Kan, E., & Toga, A. W. (2004). Longitudinal mapping of cortical thickness and brain growth in normal children. Journal of Neuroscience, 24, 8223–8231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stams, G. J., Brugman, D., Dekovic, M., van Rosmalen, L., van der Laan, P., & Gibbs, J. C. (2006). The moral judgment of juvenile delinquents: A meta-analysis. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34, 697–713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Steinbeis, N., & Crone, E. A. (2016). The link between cognitive control and decision-making across child and adolescent development. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 10, 28–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Steinberg, L. (2004). Risk taking in adolescence: What changes and why? Annuals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1021, 51–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sutherland, E. H. (1947). Principles of criminology (4th ed.). Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott.Google Scholar
  61. Taber-Thomas, B. C., Asp, E. W., Koenigs, M., Sutterer, M., Anderson, S. W., & Tranel, D. (2014). Arrested development: Early prefrontal lesions impair the maturation of moral judgement. Brain, 137, 1254–1261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Triesdale-Moore, S. (2015). The ex-offender employment challenges: A case study on employment agencies in Minnesota. Journal of Criminal Justice and Law Review, 4, 79–92.Google Scholar
  63. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 1124–1131.Google Scholar
  64. Vaish, A., Carpenter, M., & Tomasello, M. (2009). Sympathy through affective perspective taking and its relation to prosocial behavior in toddlers. Developmental Psychology, 45, 534–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. van Rooij, M. M. J. W., Favela, L. H., Malone, M., & Richardson, M. J. (2013). Modeling the dynamics of risky choice. Biological Psychology, 25, 293–303.Google Scholar
  66. Van Vugt, E., Gibbs, J., Stams, G. J., Bijleveld, C., Hendriks, J., & van der Laan, P. (2011). Moral development and recidivism: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 55, 1234–1250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Varghese, F. P., Charlton, S. R., Wood, M., & Trower, E. (2014). Temporal discounting and criminal thinking: Understanding cognitive processes to align services. Psychological Services, 11, 171–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Walters, G. D. (2015). The decision to commit crime: Rational or nonrational? Criminology, Criminal Justice, Law & Society, 16(3), 1–18.Google Scholar
  69. Woodworth, M., & Porter, S. (2002). In cold blood: Characteristics of criminal homicides as a function of psychopathy. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111, 436–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Worthy, D. A., Gorlick, M. A., Pacheco, J. L., Schnyer, D. M., & Maddox, W. T. (2011). With age comes wisdom: Decision making in younger and older adults. Psychological Science, 22, 1375–1380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wortley, R. (2001). A classification of techniques for controlling situational precipitators of crime. Security Journal, 14, 63–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wortley, R. (2014). Rational choice and offender decision-making: Lessons from the cognitive sciences. In B. Leclerc & R. Wortley (Eds.), Cognition and crime: Offender decision-making and script analysis (pp. 237–252). London, England: Routledge.Google Scholar
  73. Wright, V. (2010, November). Deterrence in criminal justice: Evaluating certainty vs. severity of punishment. Washington, DC: The Sentencing Project.Google Scholar
  74. Zafirovski, M. (2012). Beneath rational choice: Elements of ‘irrational choice theory’. Current Sociology, 61, 3–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zelazo, P. D., Craik, F. I., & Booth, L. (2004). Executive function across the life span. Acta Psychologica, 115, 167–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kutztown UniversityKutztownUSA

Personalised recommendations