Personality Factors as Predictors for Future Behavior, Outcomes, and Effective Interventions (At the Example of Criminality)

Summary. Developmental psychology aims to predict future behavior and outcomes. Many factors contribute to personality and the manifestation of behavior. These may be of biological, psychological, and social nature. While psychoanalysis sees our moral development as a rather automatic process determined mainly during childhood, Eysenck’s personality traits in interaction with the environment provide for an approach that involves more the possibility of learning. According to his Antisocial Behavior Hypothesis (ASB), individual differences in psychoticism are relevant even for the development of criminal thinking. Psychoticism is a trait that represents a continuum from aggressiveness and divergent thinking at the one end, and empathy and caution at the other. The materialization of criminal thinking, however, depends heavily on the social environment, why prisons may be rather ineffective environments for social rehabilitation of criminals.

Individually Different Learning Responses

The goal of developmental personality psychology is to find answers to what personality trait tendencies can predict what kind of behavior [1]. Both the biological and social components are essential in Eysenck’s biosocial theories. For example, it could be confirmed that the interaction between testosterone with genetic, psychological and social factors is influencing behavior [2]. Similarly, the significantly biologically based personality traits are not necessarily directly determining behavior, but they are interacting according to their tendency with the (social) environment through learning processes [3]. Although adolescence is considered a naturally critical transition phase, the changes may be attenuated by learning and decisions to take, like, for example, what to do after school, which directions to choose for privately, educationally, and professionally [4].

The Morality Hypothesis

Eysenck’s personality traits do not only provide insight into a current state, but rather are seen as precursors of future behavior and consequences [5]. One approach related to personal development is called the morality hypothesis, in which Eysenck explained well-behavior with the formation of conscience that is depending on the presence of relatively low levels of Extraversion and Neuroticism as favorable for being inhibitive enough to develop a conscience [5]. Freud’s theory about the superego allows less optimism about the learning ability of the human mind, as the moral instance of the super-ego is functioning automatically, directed by a psychic force established during childhood [6].

Antisocial Behavior Hypothesis (ASB)

Eysenck’s theory describing the interplay between personality temperament and socialization to predict future (problematic) conduct is referred to the Antisocial Behavioral Hypothesis (ASB) [9]. Analysis revealed that antisocial behavior stemmed from high scores in primarily Psychoticism and secondarily Neuroticism trait scales [7]. The role of Psychoticism for preceding antisocial behavior was also confirmed [1], who concluded with recommending the targeting of reducing the psychoticism tendency in interventions targeting anti-social adolescents. A group of researchers provide a convincing application case of the finding that personality traits alone are not the only factor for behavior to emerge [8]. Increased levels of all the dimensions, mostly heightened values in psychoticism though were predictive of criminal thinking. However, the manifestation of criminal thinking was influenced by the social environment. Consequently, it has to be questioned how effective prison environments are in reducing criminal thinking and behavior (i.e., reduction of recidivism rate), as it is a place where criminal identities and thinking is omnipresent and therefore criminal energy is potentially reinforced [8].

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References

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  2. Yildirim, B. O., & Derksen, J. L. (2012). A review on the relationship between testosterone and life-course persistent antisocial behavior. Psychiatry Research, 200(2–3), 984–1010. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2012.07.044
  3. Nora Mary, J., & David B., C. (2002). Inhibition of Antisocial Behavior and Eysenck’s Theory of Conscience. Education And Treatment Of Children, (4), 522.
  4. Ciarrochi, J., & Heaven, P. (2012). Religious Values and the Development of Trait Hope and Self-Esteem in Adolescents. Journal For The Scientific Study Of Religion, 51(4), 676–688.
  5. Center, D. B., Jackson, N., & Kemp, D. (2005). A test of Eysenck’s antisocial behavior hypothesis employing 11–15-year-old students dichotomous for PEN and L. Personality And Individual Differences, 38395–402. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2004.04.017
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  7. Kemp, D. E., & Center, D. B. (2003). An investigation of Eysenck’s Antisocial Behavior Hypothesis in general education students and students with behavior disorders. Personality And Individual Differences, 351359–1371. doi:10.1016/S0191–8869(02)00355–0
  8. Boduszek, D., Shevlin, M., Adamson, G., & Hyland, P. (2013). Eysenck’s Personality Model and Criminal Thinking Style within a Violent and Nonviolent Offender Sample: Application of Propensity Score Analysis. Deviant Behavior, 34(6), 483–493.
  9. Kemp, D. E., & Center, D. B. (2001). Temperament Based Personality, Socialization, and Behavior in Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disorders and General Education Students.