Cognitive Explanations Level of Moral Reasoning

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What is the name of the researcher who applied the concept of moral reasoning to criminal behavior?

Lawrence Kohlberg

According to Kohlberg, how can people's decisions and judgments on issues of right and wrong be summarized?

In a stage theory of moral development

What level of moral reasoning are criminal offenders more likely to be classified at in Kohlberg's model?

Pre-conventional level (stages 1 and 2)

According to Kohlberg's theory, what is characteristic of the pre-conventional level of moral reasoning?

A need to avoid punishment and gain rewards

What are cognitive distortions?

Errors or biases in people's information processing system characterized by faulty thinking.

How are offenders' social perspective-taking skills compared to non-offender peers?

Offenders are often more egocentric and display poorer social perspective-taking skills than non-offender peers.

What is the relationship between propensity for violence and hostile attribution bias?

A propensity for violence is often associated with a tendency to misinterpret the actions of other people, assuming others are being confrontational when they are not.

What behaviors are associated with individuals who reason at higher levels?

Individuals who reason at higher levels tend to sympathize more with the rights of others and exhibit more conventional behaviors such as honesty, generosity, and non-violence.

What is minimalisation and how does it relate to criminal behavior?

Minimalisation is an attempt to deny or downplay the seriousness of an offense. It relates to criminal behavior as individuals may use euphemistic labels to minimize the seriousness of their actions.

According to Kenneth Dodge and Cynthia Frame's study, how did children identified as 'aggressive' interpret an ambiguous provocation compared to 'non-aggressive' children?

Children identified as 'aggressive' interpreted the ambiguous provocation as more hostile than 'non-aggressive' children.

What percentage of incarcerated rapists denied they had committed an offense, according to Howard Barbaree's findings?

54% of incarcerated rapists denied they had committed an offense.

How did a sample of child molesters justify their actions, according to Nathan Pollock and Judith Hashmall's report?

35% argued that the crime they committed was non-sexual, and 36% stated that the victim had consented.

Study Notes

  • Cognitive explanations for criminal behavior focus on moral reasoning and cognitive distortions.
  • Moral reasoning is summarized in Kohlberg's stage theory, where higher stages indicate more sophisticated reasoning.
  • Criminals are more likely to be at the pre-conventional level, characterized by a need for rewards and avoiding punishment.
  • Pre-conventional level reasoning is associated with egocentric behavior and poor social perspective-taking skills.
  • Cognitive distortions, errors in information processing, are linked to criminal actions and justifications.
  • Hostile attribution bias is a cognitive distortion where offenders misinterpret neutral actions as hostile, leading to violent responses.
  • Offenders, whether violent or sexual, are prone to minimizing the seriousness of their offenses.
  • Minimalization is the denial or downplaying of the harm caused by an offense.
  • Studies have shown that violent offenders are more likely to perceive ambiguous facial expressions as hostile, potentially rooted in childhood experiences.
  • Incarcerated rapists, child molesters, and other offenders have been found to minimize the harm they caused or deny their actions altogether.

Explore Lawrence Kohlberg's stage theory of moral development and its application to criminal behavior. Understand how people's moral reasoning progresses through different stages based on responses to moral dilemmas.

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