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.