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Title: Cognitive scripts in versatile and repeat offenders
Author: Hockey, David
ISNI:       0000 0004 2751 7528
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2008
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In recent years, cognitive theories of offender behaviour have lead to the development of rehabilitation programs. However, many of the cognitive theories which underpin these programs have not been fully developed nor have they been the subject of very much empirical investigation. For example, some of these programs have been applied to versatile offenders (i.e., those that commit a wide range of different types of offences), but cognitive theories, in general, have not been developed to account for such versatility. Moreover, there has been little investigation of the cognitive processes in versatile offenders. This thesis is concerned with the application of one cognitive theory, script theory, to offender behaviour, with particular reference to versatile offender behaviour. In Study 1, forty offenders broadly fitting the profile of 'versatile offender' with a mean age of 16 years old and a comparison group of forty non-offenders were given 4 vignettes to complete. In Study 2, a second group of 30 offenders and 35 non-offenders who were over 18 years of age were also compared. Each vignette contained a potential criminal situation that was set within typical situations in which they occur: a violent situation, vandalism, car theft and burglary. The vignette scenarios were derived from British Crime Survey statistics and comprised some of the most common offences to occur for younger age groups. The response format and subsequent analysis was consistent with previous uses of this methodology: initial categorization of actions within stages of scenario responses, followed by in depth analyses of the nature of these responses. The results of both studies provided evidence consistent with script-like knowledge structures across a range of offences for subsets of offenders. Study 3 employed a similar methodology to that used in Studies 1 and 2 in order to contrast a group of 'Elite' offenders (who had received no convictions during their adult lives) with a group of repeat offenders. The results of this study confirmed that there was script-like knowledge in the repeat offenders, and that their knowledge and behaviour (as indexed by the responses to a burglary vignette) differed markedly from the Elite offenders. The conclusions drawn from the results are that repeat offenders who are versatile appear to process crime scene information similarly to repeat specialist offenders in that there are script-like characteristics. Therefore, both rehabilitation program designs and crime prevention methods would benefit from more use of the script theoretical framework in predicting offenders' linear processing patterns. Furthermore, the Elite group of offenders appear to use a comparatively lower risk strategy in terms of movements between different locations in and around a crime scene. This strategy is distinguishable from specific 'how to do' techniques used for breaking in to properties for example. Within the script framework, this strategy is explained by the use of an expansive set of sub-tracks to the principal script. Sub-tracks are predetermined sets of behaviours which negate a problem and then return the user back to the original course of the script. Such sub-tracks appear to be absent from the repeat offenders repertoire' of processing, hence the rigidity and concrete appearance to the processing of repeat offenders who fail to avoid periodical adjudications.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available