US public views toward biosocial risk factors for criminality: a brief report

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to present preliminary survey data measuring attitudes of members of the US public on the importance, existence, and potential legal use of biological risk factors for criminality. Design/methodology/approach: Survey data were collected from an online sample of US public in conjunction with an experiment not included in this report. Findings: Data suggest that the public generally agrees that there are certain biological characteristics that make one more likely to exhibit criminality. The public does not appear to agree on whether or not this type of evidence should be allowed in court, but the large majority of respondents were worried about its potential misuse. Practical implications: Social risk factors were generally viewed by respondents as more important to explaining criminality, suggesting that sociological views of crime may be still more prevalent in the lay public. Worries about biosocial risk factor evidence being misused in court have been previously discussed in academic literature, but the public also appears to share these concerns. The public especially worries that this kind of evidence could be used to incorrectly excuse an offender’s behavior, showing that they may be weary of this evidence in court as potential jurors. Attitudes of many members of the public on these issues may be affected by academic disagreement in the criminology community on the importance of these issues. Originality/value: Scholars have emphasized the need for discussion on how the US public views biosocial risk factors for criminality. As there are no known data of this type, these data are the first of their kind.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-299
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Law


  • Biosocial
  • Courts
  • Law
  • Offenders
  • Public opinion
  • Risk


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