Criminal Expertise and Offender Decision Making: An Experimental Study of the Target Selection Process in Residential Burglary

Richard Wright, Robert H. Logie, Scott H. Decker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

110 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article reports the results of an experiment designed to explore (a) the environmental cues used by active residential burglars in choosing targets, and (b) the extent to which such offenders possess specialized cognitive abilities (commonly referred to as expertise) that might facilitate this decision-making process. Forty-seven active residential burglars and a matched group of 34 nonoffenders were shown photographs of houses and asked whether the dwellings would be attractive or otherwise to burglars. Subsequently, subjects were given a surprise recognition test where, in some photographs, physical features of the setting had been changed. Results revealed that active residential burglars were significantly better than nonoffenders at recognizing certain “burglary relevant” environmental changes. Moreover, offenders differed from controls in the mix of environmental cues they employed when selecting targets. These results argue for the importance of acquired expertise in explanations of offender decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-53
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Volume32
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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