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 between the two schools of thought. Yet, it is precisely research at this intersection that is likely to yield the most dividends when it comes to improving our understanding of criminal conduct.
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 the dispositional and the sociogenic view, focusing on a well-established correlate of crime: the tendency to concentrate on immediate benefits at the expense of considering long-term costs (i.e., short-term mindsets). This perspective is premised on the idea that such mindsets encourage crime, and it specifies how both individual dispositions and sociogenic variables can encourage such mindsets. That is, rather than being stable, as is commonly assumed in criminology, short-term mindsets are malleable and change over time as a function of exposure to environmental factors such as victimization, parenting styles, sanctions, and delinquent peers—factors that have all separately been related to crime in important ways.