Criminal behavior linked to thinking about risk

Law breakers seek more risk than law abiding citizens when there is something to gain, and less risk when there is something to lose.

Criminal behavior linked to thinking about risk
The link between criminal behavior and risk taking.

Main titles

  • Law abiding citizens and law breakers have a contrasting take on risk.

“We have found that criminal behavior is associated with a particular kind of thinking about risk, and we have found, through our fMRI capabilities, that there is a correlate in the brain that corresponds to it.” - Valerie Reyna, Professor of Human Development, Cornell University.

gambling risk

“We found that most people will show a framing effect, avoiding risk when they are going to win and seeking risk when they are going to lose. Criminals, on the other hand, reverse that framework.” - Valerie Reyna.

  • In a gambling experiment study participants who had a self reported propensity towards criminal behavior, tended to take more of a risk when it meant that they had something to gain.
  • Law abiding participants were comfortable with their winnings and had less desire to accept a double or nothing offer.
  • The opposite occurred when there was something to lose. Criminal tendency individuals refused to gamble, taking a clear hit, in contrast to law abididing indivuals who would gamble away twice the amount of the intitial loss, in hope of not having to lose anything.
  • FMRI analysis showed increased activity in areas of the brain involving reasoning, with criminal behavior participants.

“When participants made reverse-framing choices, which is the opposite of what you and I would do, their brain activation correlated or covaried with the score on the self-reported criminal activity. The higher the self-reported criminal behavior, the more activation we saw in the reasoning areas of the brain when they were making these decisions.” - Valerie Reyna.