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Criminological Theory and Its Author
Donald Lindsley is rightfully considered to be one of the most renowned and influential psychologists of the 20th century. He made numerous inventions regarding the human electroencephalogram, neurophysiological aspects of human body and behavior, and explored the cortical functions in addition to human brain mechanisms. Numerous researchers in the field of physiology and psychology believe that Lindsley should have been awarded the Nobel Prize. He discovered the reticular activating system which became one of the essential findings regarding the brain function and neuroscience.
Over the course of his research, Lindsley developed a behavioral theory that was based on arousal-seeking attitudes. The core aspects of this theory became popular among sociologists, psychologists, and criminologists. The basics of the arousal-seeking behavioral theory were outlined by Lindsey and then complemented by his adepts and other psychologists. The key supposition of the theory is that due to particular environmental or genetic motives, the response to various external stimuli may be diverse in different people (Siegel, 2015).
According to the arousal theory, if an individual does not reach a sufficient level of arousal, they become bored. On the other hand, if there is too much arousal, the individual may become rather anxious. In turn, excessive anxiousness may lead to sensation-seeking behaviors (Wagner, 2013). Therefore, Lindsley claimed that sensation-seeking individuals are predisposed to the manifestation of deviant behaviors both environmentally and biologically.
Application of the Theory
The criminological theory of arousal is usually applied when the crime is based on the feeling of sensation. These individuals can be characterized as crime prone due to their environmental and biological predilection to illicit activities (Hirschi, 2011).
As it has been mentioned earlier, the key premise is the feeling of boredom and desire to live a thrilling life. It is important that the criminals that relate to the arousal theory do not expect to gain any financial profit as a result of their delinquent behavior. Nonetheless, if there is a possibility to obtain any assets, the criminals will gladly accept it. The arousal theory is commonly applied when the criminals are triggered by their perception of self-fulfillment.
The notion of sensationalism is inextricably linked to the arousal theory as it is defined by a number of novel and thrilling experiences. Moreover, the wrongdoer is affected by the risks that are connected to the “experience” (including social, lawful, financial, and physical types of risks). Criminologists use Zuckerman’s Scale with the intention of detecting and categorizing those individuals who prefer thrill-seeking behaviors.
The key strength of this theory is that it may serve as an efficient predictor of delinquent behavior in the individuals whose impulsiveness is one of the key indicators. Nonetheless, there are several important weaknesses that impact the process of application of this criminological theory. First, there is no direct dependency between the thrill-seeking behavior and criminal activity. Second, the theory does not provide any explanation regarding the inclination to delinquent behavior and the cultural norms that represent acceptable forms of behavior. Third, the theory does not investigate the impulse-associated behavior in aging individuals.
Summary of the Crime and Description of the Offender
Charles Cullen worked as a nurse in the State of New Jersey and is currently known as one of the most productive serial killers in the history of the United States of America (Ramsland et al., 2015). His nursing career lasted for 16 years. According to Cullen’s confession, during this period he killed almost 50 patients. Nonetheless, the subsequent interviews conducted by psychologists and law enforcement agents revealed that the number of victims is much bigger (Hickey, 2016).
In the majority of cases, Cullen remembered the details of patients’ cases but couldn’t remember their names. The further investigation showed that the number of Cullen’s victims was approximately 400 or even more (Ramsland et al., 2015). The expertise claimed that this delinquent activity became real due to the possibility to travel from one facility to another without being noticed freely. As it has been supposed later, the fact that the medical workers were not required to provide reports regarding any apprehensive behavior became one of the implicit premises of the crimes committed by Cullen.
Connection between the Crime and the Criminological Theory
The connection between the crime and the arousal theory can be explained by the fact that Cullen was driven by the desire to help people. His anxiousness became the key premise of the consequent delinquent behavior. We can connect the arousal theory to Cullen’s misbehavior in terms of the psychological need for thrill. It is rather interesting to draw parallels due to the fact that Cullen did not back his actions with any reasonable, supportive reasons.
Instead, he tried to make the feeling of thrill even more intensive by claiming that he had blackouts. On a bigger scale, Cullen’s behavior may be perceived as risky, which is the basis of his delinquent behavior. As a nurse, he had access to all the necessary medications and the ability to kill a patient in full view of everybody became the ultimate factor that caused him to save his patients from suffering.
Hickey, E. W. (2016). Serial murderers and their victims. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Hirschi, T. (2011). Causes of delinquency. New York, NY: Routledge.
Ramsland, K., Banaski, K., Newton, M., Vronsky, P., Parker, R. J., & Perrini, S. (2015). Serial killers true crime anthology. Toronto, ON: R.J. Partker.
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Siegel, L. J. (2015). Criminology: The core (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Wagner, W. E. (2013). Practice of research in criminology and criminal justice. New York, NY: Sage.