Psychology of a Crime – Why are some people more susceptible to breaking the Law?

What am I?
If not bound by your encoded sequences?
Your chains, they hold me, each link to the next, every action and reaction, all those double-standard lies; replicated, repeated and transcribed – from my Father, and his Father, and from he that begat him.
What am I?
But a mud feeder, a bottom dweller, a bacterium?

Are criminals born or made? This question has astounded analysts, sociologists, and criminologists for numerous years. Endeavours have been made to establish the nature of criminality. The born or made contention, known as the ‘nature versus nurture” wrangle about, but then there emerges the question, whether criminality is due to hereditary factors, and thus unavoidable, or whether it is the product of social, situational, environmental surroundings, and other external factors. This article deals with the psychological behaviour of the criminals and the psychology of a crime why are some people more susceptible to breaking the law.

What is Psychology?

Psychology, in layman’s language, is a tough word to decode. There is a lot in these 10 letters. Psychology may be referred to as a person’s way of thinking, sometimes the reaction of people upon things and most importantly it is the innermost feelings of people developed from a series of things that happen over time.

India, a country with the richest culture, variety of customs and unity in all diversities; still, cannot stand by and accept the very problem of mental health and that a human body is also affected by mental problems and that mental problem should be dealt the same way as a physical problem is, that it needs same care and affection or possibly even more. There is obviously no excuse for the commission of a crime and us, as law students stand by the fact that if a crime has been committed, justice must be served. I, as an individual, often think about the variety of crimes happening and I couldn’t help but wonder, what can be the reason behind all this? And, that’s where psychology in crime comes up as a major factor.

Psychology is a scientific discipline that studies mental states and processes and behaviour in humans and other animals. The discipline of psychology is broadly categorized into two parts: a large profession of specialists and a smaller but developing science of intellect, brain, and social conduct. The two have distinctive objectives, training, and hones, but a few psychologists integrate the two. So, basically it is the study of the human mind and what goes in it. It studies the different types of behavioural conducts in different situations.

Role of Psychology in a Crime.

How do individuals choose to commit a crime? Do they think about the benefits and the dangers? Why do they commit violations knowing its consequences? Why do others never commit wrongdoing, no matter how frantic the circumstances? Criminology is the study of crime and offenders by specialists called the Criminologists.

Studying a criminal’s mind can offer assistance in avoiding more crimes from being committed in the future. Ultimately, understanding a criminal’s intellect is the most perfect way to reduce crimes. Once we get to know how a criminal mind thinks, it will get easier for us to understand why are they committing crimes in the first place and stop it from happening. For example, a few individuals may become abusive since they were abused as children, whereas others might commit wrongdoing since they are rationally sick. All of this data is incredibly valuable.

Behaviour is generally a result of the way an individual considers or thinks. Personality is what makes a person. In spite of the fact that an individual might have the appearance of a criminal, the thought patterns of that individual are what makes him a criminal. The criminal’s decision to commit crime comes from anomalous thinking patterns, says a psychoanalyst from St. Elizabeth Clinic. Analysts Yocheleson and Samnow recognize similar thought patterns found in crimes, which incorporate constant lying, failure to create sympathy, anticipating their wants to be catered to them, loving somebody for doing what they want, dark and white thinking, and blaming others.

Various theories related to psychology which prove to be quite successful and useful are-

There is a multi-store model proposed by Atkinson and Shiffrin (1986), which provide a compelling insight into how sensory information is filtered and made available for recall according to its importance to us. Now, this theory proves to be quite useful as we can observe that human beings often process information according to him/her understanding and usage of it.

In the theory of Flashbulb Memories (Brown & Kulik, 1977), there are particular moments in history that a vast number of people seem to hold vivid recollections of. You will likely be able to recall such an event that you hold unusually detailed memories of. Moreover, we need not be personally connected to an event for it to affect us, and for it, leads to the creation of a flashbulb memory.

In quite recent times, we heard of something called False Memories. Can false memories be planted in our minds? The idea may sound like the basis of a dystopian science fiction story, but evidence suggests that memories that we already hold can be manipulated long after their encoding. Moreover, we can even be coerced into believing invented accounts of events to be true, creating false memories that we then accept as our own.

Above stated theories have a lot to say if we dwell into them deeply. Crimes, most often, have a lot to do with the intention one carries along with them. 

Twenty-first-century criminologists have looked into a wide array of variables to clarify why an individual would commit a crime. These included natural, mental, social, and financial variables. Throughout history, individuals have attempted to explain as to why would any individual commit crime. More often than not, a combination of these variables coerces an individual to commit a crime. Reasons for committing a crime incorporate greed, outrage, jealousy, revenge, or pride.

A few choose to commit a sin and carefully make the arrangements necessary in advance so as to increase the gain and decrease hazards. These people make choices about their behaviour; a few, indeed, consider a life of wrongdoing better than a standard job – believing wrongdoing brings in more prominent rewards, deference, and excitement – at slightest until they’re caught. Others get an adrenaline surge when effectively carrying out a hazardous crime, while some commit on impulse, out of rage or fear.

The want for material gain (cash or costly assets) leads to property crimes such as thefts, burglaries, white-collar violations, and auto robberies. The want for control, revenge, or power leads to violent wrongdoings such as murders, assaults, and rapes. These violent crimes ordinarily happen on motivation or the spur of the minute when emotions run high. Property violations are more often than not planned in advance.

Investigation on brain activity examined the part of neurochemicals, substances the brain discharges to trigger body actions, and hormones in affecting criminal behaviour. Studies show that expanded levels of a few neurochemicals, such as serotonin, diminishes animosity. Serotonin could be a substance created by the central nervous system that has wide-sweeping impacts on the emotional state of the person. In contrast higher levels of others, such as dopamine, expanded hostility. Dopamine is created by the brain and influences heart rate and blood pressure. Analysts anticipated discovering that people who committed violent crimes have diminished levels of serotonin and higher levels of dopamine. This condition would have driven to periods of more prominent movement including aggression if the individual is inclined towards aggression.

Reasons behind the commission of any Crime.

Criminologists and analysts enumerated certain factors which might drive any individual towards committing any wrongdoing:

  • Poverty
    This is perhaps one of the most concrete reasons why an individual might commit a crime. Financial hardship is seen as a major instigator in this regard. In a nation where economic deprivation is uncontrolled; it is common for individuals to engage in criminal acts. Starvation and poor financial conditions are what leads numerous individuals to contribute themselves in criminal cases. Furthermore, when individuals are incapable to earn for the longest time, they frequently begin getting frustrated and resort to committing crimes.
  • Peer Pressure
    Typically a new frame of concern within the cutting edge world. Numerous young people commit crimes because they see a lot of their peers engaging in such acts. It is common for high school students and college going students to engage in drugs, weed, marijuana and a lot more. Young age is exceptionally critical since one isn’t filled with the intelligence and experience which is why a lot of individuals make the botch of getting to be criminals for no reason at all.
  • Family Conditions
    Family conditions also play a major role in developing the mindset of an individual. If a person have had seen his family members doing wrong since his childhood he might also develop the same kind of thinking and might get involved in the world of crime. Hence he unintentionally starts walking the wrong path.
  • Mental State
    One of the major factors in turning a person into a criminal is the mental and emotional damage he had to go through since his childhood. People who have suffered mental trauma since a tender age have a greater tendency to become criminals. They rebel; which is a reaction to all the torture they have suffered. They tend to become psychopaths committing crimes for no reason as they have had a mental malfunction.
  • Revenge
    People might also become criminals in order to seek revenge from people. Crimes like rape, murder, acid attacks are basically done to exact revenge from the victim or people who are related to them. Revenge drives some individuals crazy and makes them take the support of criminal ways to take out their revenge.


These are some of the reasons why individuals resort to committing crimes. Hence psychology plays an important role in determining the mindset of a criminal and helps in understanding why a person is committing a certain crime. Every crime committed may not have a motive. Psychology helps in predicting what the next move of a criminal might be which may prevent dangerous incidents from taking can place and save the lives of many.

Psychologists approach the task of explaining delinquent and criminal conduct by focusing on an individual’s identity. In specific, they look at the processes by which behaviour and limitations on behaviour are learned. Psychology offers assistance to the present decision-makers in making decisions by giving more precise images and pictures of human perceptions and preferences.

However, psychology is a step towards making a legal framework perfect. Any study which relates psychological principles with legal applications is considered as legal psychology. Where on one hand, forensic psychology gives information about the mental state of charged and witness and additionally gives data with respect to the treatment of those mentally ill accused; on the other hand, the legal analysts in the shape of researchers and academicians offer assistance in creating the legal system by providing new perspectives to legal issues and by giving diverse solutions to it.

Without psychology, solving crimes would have not been this easy. Hence, the role which psychology plays in the legal system modifies it and helps in maintaining justice, equity and good conscience