Free Will and Criminality

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Psychologist Stanton Samenow, arguing against the popular idea that certain environmental factors predispose people to become criminals, produces the following counterexample:

Image by Christian Wiediger, via Unsplash, license.
In a memoir, former Aurora, Illinois, police chief Kristen Ziman wrote that her father regularly took her to a bar after school. There, she ate Slim Jims and played pool while he drank. Her father's alcoholism destroyed her parents' marriage so that she had to move in with family friends when she was 15. Ms. Ziman said that these adversities fostered independence, confidence, and resilience. She wrote that she "took the good things my parents gave me and opted to use the rest as a lesson in what not to do." Had she become a criminal, people might have said that it was not surprising given her role models and the resulting instability that she experienced. Like Ms. Ziman, many people choose not to emulate bad role models or succumb to temptations around them. [bold added]
Samenow states that "circumstances that constitute a risk factor for one person can be a protective factor for another, but it seems a clear case of the truism Life is what you make of it to me: Although Samenow does not use the term free will, his remaining commentary to the effect that criminality is due to characteristic thinking processes would seem compatible with the concept.

-- CAV

P.S. Samenow mentions towards the end of his post that he has published an updated edition of Inside the Criminal Mind. I enjoyed that book many years ago and welcome the news that it has been updated.

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