9. Learning Theories

9.2 Learning Theories and Crime

Dr. Zachary Rowan and Michaela McGuire, M.A.

Take a moment to reflect on the last few tasks you completed before reading this chapter. Maybe you reviewed your notes from a lecture, made a meal, or even scrolled through your social media accounts. Each of these are distinct, yet all rely on one underlying thing—learned behaviours. As students, you figure out how to effectively study and process information from courses; understand how to read a recipe and put each of the ingredients together into a meal; generate content, pictures, or videos to portray your life (perhaps by receiving approval or attention through “likes” and comments). Each of these tasks require that you have learned the motivations and skills necessary to complete them. These behaviours were also not learned in a vacuum you are surrounded by friends, fellow students, family, and other acquaintances who have talked about or shown you their study habits, cooking skills, or social media engagement. Through these associations and social interactions, you learn behaviours. The social nature of our day-to-day lives has direct implications for our understanding of antisocial behaviour. Learning perspectives of crime suggest that we also learn the motivations, rationalizations, and skills of crime, substance use, and other deviant behaviour. For instance, in the context of shoplifting, individuals can be taught the specific skills necessary to remove clothing from a store without detection and be reinforced by peers as to why stealing from a profitable business is acceptable and should not be considered criminal.


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Introduction to Criminology Copyright © 2023 by Dr. Zachary Rowan and Michaela McGuire, M.A. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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