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Rational choice and offender decision making: lessons from the cognitive sciences

Wortley, Richard; (2013) Rational choice and offender decision making: lessons from the cognitive sciences. In: Leclerc, B and Wortley, R, (eds.) Cognition and Crime: Offender Decision Making and Script Analyses. (pp. 237-251). Routledge: London, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

As outlined in the introductory chapter, the rational choice perspective (RCP) has become the primary conceptual underpinning for situational crime prevention (SCP) and as such has attracted both devoted supporters and trenchant critics. The starting point for this chapter is the contention that much of the criticism directed at RCP – and for that matter, much of the support it receives – is based on a misconception of the function that the model is designed to fulfil. The distinction is drawn between RCP as an organising framework for SCP policy and practice on the one hand, and RCP as a theoretical model of offender decision making on the other. The former function is what Cornish and Clarke intended for RCP, and in that role it has been outstandingly successful. The latter function was never intended by Cornish and Clarke and nor does RCP credibly fulfil that role. Cornish and Clarke have been clear from the beginning that their intention was to develop models of offending that informed prevention, not to provide a detailed or literal account of how offenders make decisions. They have never claimed their approach to be a theory, choosing the term rational choice perspective advisedly. In the first exposition of RCP (Clarke and Cornish, 1985) they could scarcely be more explicit: This perspective provides a basis for devising models of criminal behavior that (1) offer frameworks within which to locate existing research, (2) suggest directions for new research, (3) facilitate analysis of existing policy, and (4) help to identify potentially fruitful policy initiatives. Such models need not offer comprehensive explanations; they may be limited and incomplete, yet still be “good enough” to achieve these important policy and research purposes.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Rational choice and offender decision making: lessons from the cognitive sciences
ISBN-13: 9780203083482
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.4324/9780203083482
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203083482
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10037962
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