CRIMETIME/Short-Term Mindsets and Crime

Why are some people more likely to commit crime than others? Answers to this question, which is at the heart of criminology, can be grouped into two broad views. On the one hand, dispositional perspectives argue that stable factors within the individual, such as lack of self-control, lie at the roots of criminal conduct. Sociogenic perspectives, on the other hand, put the locus of study outside the individual and point towards factors such as rough neighborhoods, parental unemployment, and deviant peers, as the main causes of crime. In spite of ample empirical support for both views, there has been relatively little constructive engagement with each other.
The ERC funded CRIMETIME project (ERC Consolidator Grant 772911) aims to address this gap in the current knowledge base by outlining and testing a new perspective on criminal behavior that integrates both views. This perspective is premised on the idea that short-term mindsets encourage crime and specifies how both individual dispositions and sociogenic variables can encourage such mindsets. We test this theory using a combination of longitudinal research and behavioral field experiments.
Besides aiming to mend the current theoretical disconnect in criminology and providing the foundation for an integrative paradigm, the research program goes a step further by using the paradigm as the basis for a behavioral intervention to reduce crime. Virtual reality technology in combination with a smartphone application are used to instill a future-oriented mindset in offenders. The objective is not only to improve our understanding of delinquency but also to provide a template for a scalable and evidence-based intervention to reduce it.

Research output: Two dissertations, scientific articles, a monograph, several conferences, smartphone application, virtual environment.
Funding: This research is funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant [Grant Number 772911–CRIMETIME].
Selected scientific output:

  • van Gelder, J. L., Averdijk, M., Ribeaud, D., & Eisner, M. (2020). Sanctions, short‐term mindsets, and delinquency: Reverse causality in a sample of high school youth. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 25(2), 199-218.
  • Cornet, L. J., & Van Gelder, J. L. (2020). Virtual reality: a use case for criminal justice practice. Psychology, Crime & Law, 26(7), 631-647.

Team mem­bers & pro­jects:

  • Jean-Louis van Geld­er (PI)
  • Job van der Schalk – seni­or re­search­er & Liza Cor­net – postdoc
    Re­search shows that de­lin­quent be­ha­vi­or is strongly char­ac­ter­ized by short­sighted­ness. Of­fend­ers tend to over­es­tim­ate the more dir­ect be­ne­fits of be­ha­vi­or, while the long-term con­sequences are of­ten un­der­es­tim­ated. One of the as­sump­tions in this re­search pro­ject is that by strength­en­ing fu­ture-ori­ented think­ing and act­ing, de­lin­quent be­ha­vi­or can be re­duced. Ex­ist­ing ju­di­cial in­ter­ven­tions already re­spond to this idea, but re­search shows that most be­ha­vi­or­al in­ter­ven­tions have lim­ited suc­cess in re­du­cing de­lin­quent be­ha­vi­or. De­part­ing from pre­vi­ous at­tempts to in­still a ‘long-term mind­set’, in the cur­rent in­ter­ven­tion young of­fend­er and stu­dent samples will be con­fron­ted with a vivid ver­sion of their ‘fu­ture self’. Pre­vi­ous re­search has shown that in­ter­ac­tion with a vivid ver­sion of the fu­ture self can pos­it­ively in­flu­ence be­ha­vi­or in the here and now. The in­ter­ven­tion be­ing de­veloped con­sists of two parts: a vir­tu­al real­ity in­ter­ven­tion in which par­ti­cipants in­ter­act with and em­body their fu­ture self in vir­tu­al real­ity, and a smart­phone ap­plic­a­tion in which par­ti­cipants in­ter­act with their fu­ture self.
  • Jes­sica Deitzer – postdoc
    Harsh and un­pre­dict­able en­vir­on­ments are linked to neg­at­ive out­comes, in­clud­ing crime. Short-term mind­sets are of­ten viewed as an ir­ra­tion­al de­fi­cit; yet, in harsh and un­pre­dict­able en­vir­on­ments where the fu­ture is seen as less stable and guar­an­teed, in­di­vidu­als may opt to fo­cus on the present. Im­puls­ive or risky ac­tion can be ad­apt­ive in such en­vir­on­ments and it is no longer ra­tion­al to de­lib­er­ate based on long-term re­wards and costs if in­di­vidu­als see their fu­ture as short, hope­less, or out of their con­trol. So-called un­pre­dict­ab­il­ity schem­as may act as me­di­at­or of the as­so­ci­ation of harsh and un­pre­dict­able en­vir­on­ments with short-term mind­sets and/or of­fend­ing. In this pro­ject, I em­ploy lon­git­ud­in­al data col­lec­ted from Z-Proso and PROSPER Peers to in­vest­ig­ate wheth­er harsh and un­pre­dict­able en­vir­on­ments are as­so­ci­ated through un­pre­dict­ab­il­ity schem­as with short-term mind­sets, then crime.
  • Ben­jamin Gan­schow – PhD-stu­dent
    My pro­ject fo­cuses on help­ing young people make more fu­ture-ori­ented de­cisions through feel­ing more con­nec­ted to who they want to be­come – their fu­ture self. This pro­ject ex­plores how we con­struct this con­nec­tion to our fu­ture selves in ad­oles­cence through ana­lyz­ing lon­git­ud­in­al data, but also how it can be im­proved through in­ter­ven­tions. We at­tempt to im­prove this con­nec­tion through ap­ply­ing clas­sic per­spect­ive tak­ing and men­tal con­trast­ing strategies, but also in com­bin­a­tion with vir­tu­al real­ity and age-morph­ing soft­ware. Vir­tu­al real­ity may help dur­ing per­spect­ive tak­ing as it can trans­port the per­son in the body, and pos­sibly the mind, of their fu­ture self.

  • Se­basti­an Kü­bel – PhD-stu­dent
    Pri­or re­search has found that vic­tims and of­fend­ers share a num­ber of char­ac­ter­ist­ics and in fact are of­ten one and the same per­son. That is, vic­tims are more likely to of­fend, and of­fend­ers have a high­er propensity to get vic­tim­ized. My pro­ject ex­am­ines how short-term mind­sets might ac­count for this re­la­tion­ship. Pre­vi­ous re­search has shown short-term mind­sets to pre­dict not only crime but also to be re­lated to vic­tim­iz­a­tion. In my pro­ject, I ap­ply a caus­al per­spect­ive to the vic­tim-of­fend­er over­lap and ex­am­ine the hy­po­thes­is that be­ing vic­tim­ized is an avers­ive event that re­in­forces short-sighted­ness and, as a res­ult, may also lead to in­creased de­lin­quency. The pro­ject uses data from the Zurich pro­ject on the So­cial De­vel­op­ment of Chil­dren and Youths.

Ex­tern­al col­lab­or­at­ors: