Are humans predisposed to violence? This has been a topic of debate amongst psychologists, criminologists and other scholars for quite some time now, but has become an even bigger controversial topic with the technological developments of PET scans and geneticist developments. Despite the fact that science has been able to show a plausible correlation between various genes and brain functions that may contribute to a human’s nature of violence; the controversial argument still remains split between those who believe and those who do not. However, if there is a connection between humans being predisposed to violence, then how can this be determined and what type of psychological factors apply to support or dispute the individual being predisposed to violence.
For decades therapists and other researchers have devoted time and study into what causes individuals to be violent (Elson & Rowell, 2013). The evolution of this topic began as a look into ones violent tendencies and the how early researchers focused their theories based on physically characteristics and social status. However, with the advent of technology, geneticists and social observations, the study of humans being predisposed to violence has shifted to a more recent technological study (Elson & Rowell, 2013)
Aggressive Behavior and Genes
Genes and their plausible correlation associated with humans being predisposed to violence is considered a “hot topic” because of the recent advancements and developments with genes that are believed to cause violent tendencies (Girgorenko et al., 2010). One of the recent advancements has been the concept of heritability and familiarity that contain definitions of a certain phenotype that is believed to be associated with aggressive antisocial behavior (Girgorenko et al., 2010). This meta-analysis phenotype also argues the fact that not only can aggressive behavior be displayed, but also criminal delinquency and other criminal complexes as well (Girgorenko et al., 2010).
An argument to the theory of genes and if they impact certain criminal behavior is the challenge that has become evident as to how to target if the gene is an actual specific risk and if the correlation between analyzing different genes, that are thought to be attributed to violence and antisocial behavior is undoubtable a genetic risk and social factor (Girgorenko et al., 2010). Another argument to the relevancy of genes and their suspected correlation to humans being violent is that the majority of tests that have been conducted have been on test subjects that were exposed to “violent or nonviolent media by a random assignment” (Elson & Ferguson, 2013).
Brain Abnormalities in the Criminal Justice System
Criminologists and psychologists have been exploring the criminal patterns and researching if there is a correlation between individuals who commit crimes and if the reason behind these crimes is due to a brain abnormality. Some argue that certain criminal justice policies need to break through their past norms and conform to a more scientific approach when it comes to brain abnormalities and brain science (Admire & Mitchell, 2010). This notion has been argued due to the recent advancements of PET scans which explore blood flow in the brain and gauges the metabolism rates in different areas of the brain (Admire & Mitchell, 2010).
The criminal justice angle of the plausibility of humans being predisposed to violence bases a strong emphasizes on brain injuries and how brain injuries have the ability to alter a person’s behavior, or personality depending on the severity of the injury (Admire & Mitchell, 2010). The criminal justice theory also explores how various learning disabilities, and other impulses can impact an individual’s brain to where certain areas of the brain can cause an individual to have troubled judgment and predispose them to violent tendencies (Admire & Mitchell, 2010). However, due to the ethical and public policy that has been established through attrition in the court systems, this concept poses difficult reform, because of the traditional court proceedings that are already in place, as well as, the multitude of tax dollars that go into the justice system (Admire & Mitchell, 2010). There is also the concept of safety and if millions of tax dollars are being established into this system, then the public as well as law enforcement policies need to make the public feel they are safe and that the current system is effective (Admire & Mitchell, 2010).
Imaging and PET Scans
There have been a large amount of test and research proposals that have attempted to prove or disprove if individuals are predisposed to violence. However, few structural brain studies have been conducted that address anti-social personality disorder (Dolan, 2010). In Psychiatrist Dolan Mairead’s (2010) research he conducted brain imagining on individuals and discovered the individuals with anti-social personality disorder had on average a 20% smaller frontal lobe than the control test subjects (Dolan, 2010). The reason why this is significant is because of the frontal lobe being attributed to compulsive control and Dolan believing that if an individual contains a smaller frontal lobe, then they me be predisposed to aggressive behavior due to a lack of the individual being able to control their impulsive behavior (Dolan, 2010).
The use of PET scans in regards to viewing the different metabolic rates in the frontal lobe have also played a significant role, especially from defense attorneys who argue by means of different expert witnesses who attempt to explain that when a PET scan shows unusual activity in the frontal lobe, then the scanned individual may be unable to control their impulsive behavior (DeBenedictis, 1990). Though some may argue that some psychologists and researchers believing this theory, the legal system has not fully established this concept as credible, due to some arguing there is no exact way to determine exactly what portion of the brain controls exact human behavior (DeBenedictis, 1990).
Discussion on if Humans Predisposed to Violence
When it comes to the different theories associated with individuals being predisposed to violence, certain aspects may be plausible and some may be reaching. Psychologists and researchers attempt to reach for unreasonable social influences they deem plausible to cause a predisposed theory of violence. An example of this is how video games have become a major topic of concern and have led numerous researchers to believe that individuals who play video games are predisposed to violence simply by what video games they play. Though some video games may be considered displeasing, more neurological aspects go into one being predisposed to violence, rather than the video games they choose to play.
As brain imaging technology continues to advance some neuro-researches believe there is a higher probability of discovering a specific traits, or abnormality that may play a factor in determining an individual’s propensity for violence, but that nothing will ever be concrete. With the continuance and advancements of neuro-research, other significant discoveries will be made in regards to neuro repair from stroke and other brain injuries that may be now considered permanent. University College of the London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience Department researchers Desmond, Pascual-Leone, and Walsh (2006) state there are currently many positive breakthroughs in brain scanning that target certain “brain manipulating techniques that are being developed that can repair previously “compromised components of neural circuits.” Many researchers argue that these breakthroughs in neuro scanning technology are paramount to finding plausibility if individuals are predisposed or not predisposed to violence.
Admire, D., & Mitchell, A. (2010). Brain Abnormalities in the Criminal Justice System: Uniting Public Policy and Scientific Knowledge. International Journal Of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 5(2), 343-355.
DeBenedictis, D. J. (1990). Criminal Minds: PET scans used to prove accused killers’ brain abnormalities. ABA Journal, (1). 30.
Desmond, J. E., Pascual-Leone, A., & Walsh, V. (2006). Manipulating brains. Behavioural Neurology, 17(3/4), 131-134.
Dolan, M. C. (2010). What imaging tells us about violence in anti-social men. Criminal Behaviour & Mental Health, 20(3), 199-214. doi:10.1002/cbm.771
Elson, M., & Ferguson, C. J. (2013). Twenty-Five Years of Research on Violence in Digital Games and Aggression: Empirical Evidence, Perspectives, and a Debate Gone Astray. European Psychologist, 19(1), doi:10.1027/1016-9040/a000147
Grigorenko, E. L., DeYoung, C. G., Eastman, M., Getchell, M., Haeffel, G. J., Klinteberg, B., & … Yrigollen, C. M. (2010). Aggressive behavior, related conduct problems, and variation in genes affecting dopamine turnover. Aggressive Behavior, 36(3), 158-176. doi:10.1002/ab.20339