Cognitive Theories of Crime
Emily M. Wright
In general, cognition refers to what people think and how they think; cognitive processes affect the way in which people make sense of the world around them—that is, the way people interpret the world, interact with others, and react to environmental situations. With respect to crime, cognitive theories explain how cognitive processes affect criminal behavior. Three main types of cognitive theories are found in the field of criminology. The first perspective concentrates on how cognition affects the way in which offenders relate to the world around them. These theories assume that cognitions affect offenders’ interpretation of situations, which influences their subsequent criminal behavior. Popular cognitive theories falling under this umbrella are the frustration-aggression hypothesis, the hostile attribution model, and the theory of cognitive scripts. The second main type of cognitive theory in criminology focuses on cognitive processes, or how offenders think. This perspective includes moral development theories, which explain criminality ...