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Title: Inside the mind of the fraudster : thematic models of emotions and roles when committing a fraud
Author: Santarcangelo, Maria
ISNI:       0000 0004 2701 9465
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2010
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Researchers and theorists have for centuries attempted to find out why people commit crimes by examining external causes, such as situational dynamics, and internal causes, such as personality characteristics. However, the actual experience of offending has received little attention and has only rarely been systematically studied. With the exclusion of Katz's (1988) book on the Seductions a/Crime, the social science literature contains only scattered evidence of what it feels like to commit a particular crime and how the actual experience of committing crime may encourage or sustain criminal activity. The focus of this study was to develop a theoretical framework for examining the emotions experienced by fraudsters and the roles they act out, when committing their crimes. This will help bridge the existing gap between the external influences of criminality and the internal agency of the offender. Indeed, developing a better understanding of these emotions and roles will assist us in modelling the processes through which external causes of crime are internalised by criminals (Canter, 2004). Practically speaking, the findings of this research will lead to the development of valid scales of emotions, roles, and criminal histories that could assist in clinical, judicial, and investigative settings, by helping practitioners better understand the actions of those they seek to detect, capture, and manage. Theoretical Framework While a number of behavioural scientists have been able to identify psychological (e.g., rationalization) and motivational (e.g., financial strain) characteristics that arguably serve as 'markers' of the propensity of an individual to commit fraud, convincing arguments have been made (e.g., Duffield & Grabosky, 2001) that these markers are not adequate explanations of fraud. Furthermore, the psychological and motivational correlates of fraud that have been identified are by no means unique to fraud and do not necessarily differentiate fraudsters from law-abiding citizens. The theoretical framework advanced in this research will assist in developing a better explanation of fraud. Specifically, this research drew heavily on two approaches in examining fraud offenders' personal criminal experiences. One was derived from the circumplex of emotions (Russell, 1997), in examining the variety of emotions experienced by fraud offenders when committing their crimes. The second was narrative theory (McAdams, 1988), in examining the roles that offenders described themselves as playing when carrying out their fraud crimes. The examination of the emotions and roles in the criminal context will develop a more general theory of human emotional experiences and narrative roles, thus contributing not only to a deeper understanding of criminality but also to wider social psychological theories. The Data This research examined fraud offenders' lived experience of deviance in utilising their own descriptions of emotions, roles, and crime. Forty-five offenders serving a prison sentence for a fraud related crime (i.e. theft, forgery, money laundering, deception, etc.) participated in the research study. Each offender first participated in a semi-structured interview in order to collect a narrative account of the events that transpired up to, during, and after the crime for which they were currently serving a prison sentence. Following the interview, the offenders completed anonymous questionnaires developed from pilot research consisting of 27 emotion items derived from Russell's (1997) circumplex model (e.g., "excited", "scared", "safe", "depressed", etc.) and 33 role items derived from the work of McAdams (1988) (e.g., "I was like a professional", "it was fun", "I had power", I was a victim", etc.). The items were rated on a five-point Likert scale in order to measure the extent to which the offender felt various emotions and acted out various roles when they 'crossed the line to crime'. Finally, a general background questionnaire was also completed to record the offenders' social and criminal background. The information collected was validated by accessing prison records. Seven studies resulted from the analyses of the completed questionnaires and narrative interviews.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available