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This research paper will discuss the integration of rational choice theory with other theoretical perspectives in developing a better understanding of why individuals engage in various criminal activities. Both the strengths and weaknesses of such integration will be examined.
Rational Choice theory, also known as reasonable action theory or choice theory, is a perspective of human behavior that is based on the assumption that individuals will naturally make decisions of whether or not to act in a specific situation in order to maximize their pleasure or benefits, while minimizing potential pain or punishment. This perspective readily lends itself to integration with other theories of crime, given that it can be applied to virtually every type of activity (including all conventional activities as well). The fact that rational choice theory was originally developed by economists, and then adopted by criminologists to explain criminal behavior, is a strong indication of the versatility and general validity of this perspective. Thus, rational choice theory is inherently an integrated theory, and furthermore is quite accommodating to integration with other theories of crime.
Rational Choice theory was first presented as a framework for explaining and understanding of why individuals choose to engage (or not to engage) in certain behaviors in a variety of economic or social behaviors. Emerging primarily from the economic field, the most notable proponent of this perspective was Gary Becker (1968), who later won a Nobel Prize in 1992 in the area of Economic Sciences. In the last couple of decades, the rational choice framework has become perhaps the dominant perspective in the area of microeconomics, which emphasizes the reasons for why people make the decisions they make regarding many aspects of their life.
This perspective assumes that the primary reasoning of individuals in virtually all decisions they make is based on perceived expectations of the potential benefits versus potential costs that are likely to result in such decisions. Obviously, this relates to economic decisions regarding personal finances, but also applies directly to decisions made regarding whether or not to engage in a variety of criminal acts. After all, illegal activities virtually always involve potential risk of punishment or costs, and also typically involve some kind of potential benefit, whether it be financial profit, peer-respect, etc. Thus, it is not surprising that criminologists readily embraced the rational choice perspective and promoted it as a robust framework in developing models of explaining why individuals choose to commit (or not commit) criminal acts. Regardless of the activity being examined, such as financial, social, criminal, etc., the bottom line of rational choice theory is that when individuals make a decision, they are assumed to balance their perceptions of likely benefits versus likely costs of their decision.
Context In Criminological Literature
The development of rational choice theory in the criminological literature can not be understood without acknowledging the rebirth of classical deterrence theory in the field. In the late 1960s, studies began to highlight and examine the importance of the rates of being apprehended by police (often measured as ratios of arrests per crimes reported to police for given offenses), as well as the severity of being caught (typically measured by the length of jail/prison sentences given if convicted for certain types of crimes). Comparisons were made between jurisdictions based on these certainty ratios and length of sentences, with most studies concluding that the certainty ratios appeared to be consistently and significantly related to lower crime rates, but the length of sentence not having as much influence on crime rates, but still related to lower crime rates in some of the studies.
However, researchers soon realized that such aggregate measures are likely not to be considered by individuals who make decisions to commit criminal offenses. Thus, researchers advanced their models to examine individual perceptions of potential risks, such as the likelihood of being caught and the severity that the formal punishments would be if convicted of such crimes. The acknowledgment of this weakness led to cross-sectional studies (i.e., taken at one point in time) that examined individuals’ perceptions of certainty and severity of punishment of being caught and then compared them to their actual offending. Studies showed that such perceptions of higher certainty of punishment were consistently linked to lower reported criminal activity, whereas perceptions of the higher severity of being punished were more inconsistent, but many studies showed that such perceptions were also linked to lower reported criminal offending. But once again, researchers realized that their methodology was flawed in the sense that it was likely that individuals’ experience in committing crimes was altering their perceptions of getting caught (i.e., experiences affect perceptions of risk, labeled an “experiential effect”), as opposed to the proposed model of perceptions of risk affecting their decisions to commit crimes (which is the classic deterrence model).
To address this weakness in their methodology, a new wave of research emerged that focused on longitudinal or panel studies that measured individuals’ perceptions of potential risks, as well as prior criminal offending, in the first wave. Then, at a later date (such as a year later), the subsequent wave(s) measured their reported offending and analyzed this while taking into account their perceptions and past offending measures collected at the first wave. This approach was largely initiated by Raymond Paternoster and his colleagues in a series of studies published in the early to mid-1980s (e.g., Paternoster et al. 1983). These seminal studies revealed that previous suspicions were indeed true; specifically, an “experiential effect” existed and had a highly significant effect on persons’ perceptions of risk. This was a key finding that highly influenced future research in both deterrence and emerging rational choice models for years to come.
Despite the acknowledgement and accounting of an experiential effect in determining individuals’ perceptions of risk, the studies that accounted for this effect still typically showed significant effects for levels of perceived formal sanctions, such as the risk of being caught and the severity of being caught/convicted. Still, these models were limited to a more traditional deterrence model, which emphasized only formal sanctions and past offending. This set the stage for a new theoretical framework that introduced other important factors that go into most individuals’ decisions to commit crime, namely the rational choice perspective.
Early Rational Choice Models Of Criminal Behavior
According to surveys of empirical research (see Tibbetts and Gibson 2002), prior to 1986 there were approximately a dozen of studies on applying the rational choice framework to criminal behavior. Most of these studies were based largely on more traditional deterrence factors, such as perceptions of the certainty of being caught and the perceived severity of punishment that would likely result from being caught. Virtually all of these pre-1986 studies tend to lack an examination of other factors, such as the benefits or profits from committing crimes, as well as the influence of a variety of other factors, such as moral beliefs, emotions, perceived informal factors, etc., nor did they typically attempt to integrate rational choice theory with other theoretical perspectives in the criminological field. Although they did not necessarily create much attention or inspire a flurry of research on rational choice theory, they certainly built the foundation for what was soon to come.
In 1986, the first notable burst of research regarding rational choice theory in explaining criminal behavior emerged by Derek Cornish and Ronald Clarke, who published their seminal book, The Reasoning Criminal: Rational Choice Perspectives on Offending. This anthology included many chapters that explored applying rational choice to a variety of offenses, as well as promoting the expansion of the perspective to include or integrate more factors that would likely be important in an individuals’ decision to engage in criminal activity. This book was well-received by scholars and the public alike, and was likely almost entirely responsible for the later surge of rational choice studies that were published in the earlyto mid-1990s. The several years gap between their 1986 publication makes sense given a normal time-gap between the publication of a notable work and the research that results from it. This gap is expected due to reading the new work (in this case Cornish & Clarke’s book), developing new research agendas, creating new survey instruments and measures, administering such surveys or acquiring new data, analyzing the results, writing up the manuscripts, and then going through the process of getting published in peer-reviewed journals. Regardless, the large attention given to rational choice theory a handful of years later showed that the call for more research was quickly answered.
Integration Of Informal Sanctions And Personal Sanctions (Self-Conscious Emotions)
In fact, in only a few years after the publication of The Reasoning Criminal, a series of studies were published by Harold Grasmick, Robert Bursik, and their colleagues that examined the rational choice framework on a variety of crimes, such as littering, theft, and drunk driving (e.g., Grasmick and Bursik 1990). Beyond the more traditional deterrence factors of official risks of being caught and severity of such punishments if caught, some of these studies also included more informal factors, such as how the individual would expect their family, friends, employers, etc., to react to them being caught for engaging in such behaviors. These informal sanctions that were integrated into estimated rational choice models were largely derived from social disorganization theory (or Chicago School of criminology), which places a focus on the influence that one’s social environment – such as family, peers and neighborhood – has on their likelihood of committing crime and delinquency. These studies consistently found such informal factors to be consistently significant influences on predicting the likelihood of people to decide to commit such offenses, and were often far more important than any formal, legal sanctions that were expected. Specifically, the higher the levels of reported expectations that friends, family, employer, etc., would affect the individual negatively for committing such crimes, the less likely the individual was to engage in such behaviors. This was not too surprising given that it is likely that most people care more about their standing with people they interact with every day than with the official sanctions of going to jail for a few months. The informal sanctions are likely to impact their long-term future, as opposed to the typically short-term consequences of official, legal sanctions. Although this may not seem to be a major breakthrough, it was at the time for models on deterrence and rational choice. Furthermore, although not recognized or stated at that time, the incorporation of such factors as informal sanctions and emotions into models of rational models were a form of integration.
Also notably in these studies, the effects of new factors were introduced and estimated, such as the levels of expected embarrassment or shame a person would feel for being caught for engaging in such activities. These emotional factors, especially shame, not only showed consistently significant inhibitory effects on decisions to commit such illegal acts, but also inspired many subsequent studies on the importance of such self-conscious emotions in rational choice models of offending. As with the influence of informal sanctions described above, the integration of these emotional components added an entirely new dimension in terms of factors that should be included in subsequent rational choice models of offending, if they are to be fully specified. Thus, the published research in early 1990s not only added support to what would become the largest wave of studies on rational choice theory in the criminological literature, but also set the stage for integrating other factors into such models.
Key Issues In Integration Of Rational Choice With Other Theories
Peak Of Research On Rational Choice And Integration With Social Control, Social Learning, And Social Disorganization Theories
Empirical studies have shown that the first peak of attention given to the rational choice perspective was clearly between the years of 1992–1997, according to the database of Criminal Justice Abstracts (see discussion in Tibbetts and Gibson 2002). This 6-year period experienced a significant increase in studies published in the criminological literature regarding applying rational choice theory to various types of criminal offending. Specifically, in these 6 years the total amount of rational choice studies more than doubled the number that had been done in all years prior to 1992. Many of the studies in this period appropriately took the earlier versions of rational choice theory and made them more fully specified, and thus more complete, models of criminal offending on given types of crimes.
Much of this expansion of the rational choice perspective involved the elaboration of the rational choice framework to include various factors or concepts that had not been traditionally considered deterrence variables, as discussed above and below. Other studies actually merged rational choice theory with other established theoretical perspectives, such as social control/ bonding theory, social disorganization, social learning, and others. Therefore, a number of the most cited studies in this period integrated the rational choice perspective with various other types of theories, or at least key concepts taken from other established theories of crime.
The key studies in the period of the early-to mid-1990s attempted to integrate rational choice theory with such concepts from other established theories such as social control/bonding, social learning and social disorganization, by incorporating the concepts of attachments to significant others, commitment/involvement in the local community, and perceptions of the reactions of others in their local neighborhood or community would react to their offending as important factors in decisions to commit crimes. For example, the importance of perceptions of how their family, friends, employers, and others in their community were not only examined, but seemed to have more importance in most cases than the perceptions of formal sanctions (i.e., police, courts, corrections) that had been emphasized in the previous rational choice studies that were based almost exclusively on expectations of official punishments. Specifically, the findings of these studies were consistent in showing that the perceived responses of such informal factors, appeared to have just as much, if not more, of an influence on individuals’ decisions to engage in a variety of criminal acts.
Such findings make sense because most people in society desire to please those who are closest to them and to the others they interact with on a daily basis. The formal sanctions, on the other hand, are typically considered somewhat removed from their everyday life, in the sense that the daily lives of most individuals are not typically directly affected by the opinion or reaction of police officers, judges, etc. Thus, it is not surprising that the key studies in the early 1990s that examined subjects’ perceptions of informal sanctions were quite influential in their decision-making when it comes to engaging in various crimes.
The introduction of these informal sanctions were largely drawn from other established theories such as social learning, which emphasizes the influence of learned attitudes and behaviors of significant others regarding a specific criminal activity, as well as the social rewards and punishments that come from deciding to engage (or not engage) in certain illegal acts. According to social learning theory, the internalization of such attitudes and behaviors of others by an individual regarding a given act increase the likelihood that individuals will either engage or not engage in such activities. In cases in which a person’s significant others actually promote the commission of crime, then the individual will view engaging in the act as a benefit in terms of respect from the friends or others that will respect her or him for doing the act, which are seen as a form of reward. On the other hand, if most of the person’s significant others look unfavorably on the commission of such an act, the individual is far less likely to engage in such behavior, because this is seen as a form of punishment. One of the benefits of the rational choice perspective is that any factor that creates a potential benefit or cost to their daily life can easily fit in this framework.
Integration Of The Benefits Or Thrills Of Offending
The early 1990s wave of studies also, for the first time, integrated and placed a large emphasis on individuals’ perceptions of benefits, or pay-off, from engaging in various criminal activities. Much of this attention was due to the recent publication of the book in 1988 by Jack Katz, Seductions of Crime, in which he emphasized the importance of the perceived benefits of committing crime or delinquency. Specifically, Katz had pointed out that there were many positive reasons for why certain individuals, especially young people, who engage in crime for various benefits, such as getting “sneaky thrills” out of offending. Youth tend to get a thrill from committing some offenses that have no actual pay-off in terms of utility, especially among certain groups of youths (such as graffiti, vandalism, unprovoked assaults, being a member of a street gang, etc.).
A good example is vandalism, such as destroying mail-boxes, breaking windows, or other similar forms. Katz specified that much of these behaviors that seemed to have no actual pay-off really did have a large pay-off other terms, such as peer respect, confidence, and relief of built-up anger/stress. Recent studies have shown that such activity actually increases dopamine and testosterone levels, which adds a physiological aspect to the benefits of crime that were not directly examined by most rational choice studies in the early 1990s period, but would surface later. Ultimately, the integration of Katz’ model of benefits or pay-off, either from a financial or social or physiological aspect, was one of the key contributions of this wave of studies in the early 1990s. This element fit well into the rational choice perspective as an element of benefit from engaging in criminal acts.
Integration Of Moral Beliefs (Social Bonding Theory)
Another notable integration in this large wave of key studies on rational choice theory in the early 1990s was the emphasis on personal moral beliefs, which was largely derived from the social control/bonding theory of crime (Hirschi 1969). Although social bonding theory specified four elements, some of these key elements – attachments to others, commitment/involvement to society, and conventional activities – had already been indirectly integrated into rational choice studies by prior models via informal factors (see above). But it was the last element of moral beliefs that had previously been unexplored, but became an emphasis on influencing the other variables in estimated models of rational decision-making regarding criminal behavior. Specifically, the integration of the concept of moral beliefs, previously seen as a social bonding concept, was presented in rational choice models of crime as a conditioning factor on the effects of individuals’ perceptions of the certainty or severity of getting caught when considering engaging in certain types of crimes.
Some of the first key studies to integrate the concept of moral beliefs as a conditional variable was Ronet Bachman, Raymond Paternoster and their colleagues (e.g., Bachman et al. 1992; Paternoster and Simpson 1996), which revealed that the likelihood of decisions to engage in a variety of crimes such as sexual assault and corporate crimes were significantly influenced by their personal beliefs regarding the morality (or immorality) of committing such acts. Furthermore, these studies also consistently showed that the effects of perceptions of likelihood of getting caught officially or severity of subsequent punishment tend to not as be as important when individuals’ have high levels of moral beliefs regarding the inherent immorality to engage given specific criminal acts. The findings of these studies further confirmed that there was much more to personal decisions to engage in a given criminal act than simply balancing the perceived risk of formal and/or informal costs of the act versus the perceived likelihood of benefits or potential pay-off. Ultimately, the incorporation of moral beliefs represented a radical departure from the simple framework presented by the early rational choice theorists, which was limited to expected costs and/or benefits. These studies suggested that long-term, time-stable personal beliefs and perhaps many other personality traits or dispositions should be considered as potential factors that may alter the effects of perceived costs and benefits of committing certain crimes.
Integration Of Self-Control Theory
The rational choice studies of the early 1990s were also highly influenced by the publication of the book (and prior studies) by Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi, A General Theory of Crime (1990). This book claimed that virtually all criminal offending and deviant behaviors are caused by a single factor – low self-control. The theory proposed by the authors quickly became not only perhaps the most researched theory in the field, but also became in the 1990s the perspective ranked by criminologists as the second most important theory in terms of validity of what explains most criminal behavior (Ellis and Walsh 1999), ranked just after social control/bonding theory which was also integrated with rational choice models around the same time period (as discussed above).
Many of the studies on rational choice integrated the concept of self-control into their models of offending, primarily as a conditional or interaction variable, in terms of determining how individuals perceive the risks of being caught and the severity of punishments of being caught. Specifically, studies in the early 1990s by Daniel Nagin and Raymond Paternoster showed that many of the primary factors of the traditional classical/deterrence framework were conditioned by individuals’ levels of self-control (Nagin and Paternoster 1993). These findings were further supported by subsequent studies that showed that not only were such traditional deterrence factors conditioned by self-control, but that other factors – specifically anticipated shame and anticipated benefits – also played a significant conditioning role in terms of decisions to engage in various criminal activities (Piquero and Tibbetts 1996). The findings of these studies created an entirely new area of research that explored the conditional effects of the more traditional deterrence/rational choice factors of perceived certainty and severity in light of many other factors that had not been included in traditional models of rational choice.
The amount of research given to rational choice theory in criminological research experienced a relative decrease in the late 1990s, as well as the early 2000 years (Tibbetts and Gibson 2002). In light of this notable decrease in attention given to rational choice theory, some criminologists specifically advised that in order to rational choice theory to make an attempt to elaborate on the rational choice framework and integrate various concepts from more established theories of crime. Subsequently, in the first decade of the new century, the attention and number of studies began to pick up again in the mid-2000s period; this is evidenced by the large number of studies that are currently referenced in Criminal Justice Abstracts between the years of 2005–2010, which averaged 28 studies for each year between 2005 and 2009 (with a high of 34 studies in 2007), which is far higher than any other 5-year period in the history of rational choice studies in criminological literature. Much of this attention was inspired by the studies that were done before in the earlyto mid-1990s, that showed that numerous other factors can and do play a large part in individuals’ decision-making beyond the traditional deterrence factors regarding perceived costs and benefits of committing crimes. Such studies began to apply rational choice theory to areas that had not been directly emphasized before, such as white-collar crime (for a review, see Simpson et al. 2002). This led to a burst of research that emphasized the integration of rational choice with other established theories, which was largely based on elaborating the rational choice framework to include other key concepts from such traditional, relatively more established theories that will be discussed below.
Recent Research Integrating Rational Choice With Other Theoretical Models And Concepts
It is notable that rational choice theory did not even make the list of the top 23 “most valid” theories in the 1999 study above that examined responses from over a hundred leading criminologists regarding which theories they thought had the most validity regarding serious crime (Ellis and Walsh 1999). This is one of the reasons that some researchers soon after claimed that in order for the rational choice framework to thrive in the criminological literature, researchers must begin integrating other theoretical concepts and propositions into the rational choice model of criminal decision making. Specifically, after a review of the extant research, Tibbetts and Gibson claimed in 2002, “the survival of rational choice theory largely depends on its integration with frameworks that emphasize individual propensities, which has been shown to complement both perspectives” (p. 18). Fortunately, it appears that this call for research has been taken by many researchers in the field. As mentioned above, the first decade of the new century saw a resurgence in the attention and number of studies on rational choice theory, especially those that integrated various concepts or propositions of other established theories into such estimated models.
Notably, most of these studies were indeed related to elaborating the rational choice framework to account for individual propensities or dispositions toward committing criminal activity.
Enduring Individual Differences And Rational Choice Theory
The call for more rational choice studies to account for individual propensities in the early 2000 years appears to have been answered, because the most current research in rational choice theory are studies that integrate various other established theories or concepts from such theories, especially those accounting for individual dispositions toward committing crime. These personal propensities that are typically emphasized in most recent studies tend to relate to personality traits or other time-stable factors that are apparent from an individual’s early antisocial behavior to later manifestations of criminality. After all, one of the key findings from empirical studies show that people tend to behave quite differently given the same situation, which is likely due to such personal dispositions and personality traits.
Related to the integration of other theories to rational choice, a recent review by Alex Piquero, Raymond Paternoster, and their colleagues recently explored the evidence related to this “differential deterrability” of that exists across different individuals with respect to the perceived sanctions (i.e., certainty and severity of punishment) of traditional rational choice models of crime (Piquero et al. 2011). This review showed that various traditional theories of crime provided much insight toward why certain individuals are more (or less) likely to engage in criminal activity. Specifically, the theories of social bonding, moral inhibition, self-control, impulsivity, emotional arousal, and pharmacological arousal were all shown to be significant additions to understanding the decision making of individuals in whether they would commit or not commit a given criminal act.
Regarding the factors that had not been discussed above in this research paper, emotional and pharmacological arousal was one of the most important aspects that this review presented. Specifically, the Piquero et al. review noted the pioneering studies of the 1990s and recent years that integrated contemporaneous emotional states into rational choice models of offending by such scholars as George Loewenstein, Daniel Nagin, Raymond Paternoster, and their colleagues. Such studies compared sexually aroused males (such as exposing some subjects to nude photographs) to non-aroused males on responses of their likelihood of committing date rape. Not only did the aroused males score higher in their intentions to commit such acts, but these studies also showed that their decisions to commit date rape were not as influenced by traditional rational choice/deterrence factors (e.g., perceived certainty/severity of punishment). Other studies have shown that the perceived benefits of such a date rape sexual act were only partially mediated by such traditional rational choice/deterrence factors.
Additional studies have explored the pharmacological influence of alcohol on individuals’ intentions to commit crimes. Specifically, Assaad and Exum (2002) reviewed the extant literature on the influence of alcohol on individuals’ likelihood of engaging in criminal activity, as well as how alcohol influences their perceptions of risks of being caught and punished, as well as their perceptions of potential benefits of committing such acts. This review concluded that (p. 77) “under the influence of alcohol, individuals are more likely to attend to salient, provocative cues in the environment.. .are less likely to recognize the costs associated with their own aggressive behavior.. .and may experience increases in arousal that in turn interferes with the cognitive processes that normally inhibit aggression.” Furthermore, there are many other pharmacological influences that involve many other substances (e.g., cocaine, methamphetamine, etc.) that were not examined in this review, but are quite likely to influence to influence individuals’ perceptions of risks versus benefits of engaging in illegal behaviors. Far more research is needed in this area of how other illegal substance usage influences the various perceptions of costs and benefits of a given act, and thus creating a better understanding of human behavior according to rational choice theory.
Ultimately, the most important point of this research paper is the conclusion that the evolution of rational choice theory has recently become far more integrated with other concepts and propositions of more established theories of crime, as well as factors that have not been included in such traditional theories (e.g., emotional arousal, etc.). Such elaboration of the rational choice framework to incorporate these concepts and propositions has created a more robust theory that explains criminal behavior much better than the earliest forms of the theory presented in the 1970s and 1980s. However, despite this success, such integration of rational choice theory with other theories has seen its fair share of criticism.
Criticisms Of The Integration Of Other Theories With The Rational Choice Perspective
Criticisms Of Rational Choice Theory And Integration With Other Theories
Some researchers would likely call such studies/ theories that use rational choice theory as a framework, and then integrate other key concepts or propositions from other more established theories, as more of an elaboration of rational choice as opposed to integration of two or more separate theories. However, theoretical elaboration is generally considered a form of theoretical integration (Messner et al. 1989), so such elaborations or expanded models of the rational choice framework that include such key concepts or propositions from other established theories are generally accepted as theoretical integration. Ultimately, the goal of both elaboration or integration is to create a theory that represents the best explanation or understanding of the phenomenon being examined. Thus, whether it be theoretical elaboration or a more complete form of theoretical integration is somewhat moot, because both seek to develop the best model for predicting and understanding the offense being considered. This is what the many of the key rational choice studies of from the early 1990s to contemporary times has sought to do. Apparently the elaboration or integration of rational choice with concepts and/or propositions of other established theories has been successful and enlightening. This can be observed in the dramatic increase in the number of studies in the last decade on rational choice, as well as the significant increase in the explained variation of offending decisions in estimated statistical models of these expanded and integrated rational choice models of illegal behavior.
Other criticisms of the integration of rational choice with other theories of crime have claimed that the proponents of rational choice are in some ways stealing from the other established theories (such as differential reinforcement/association theory) because many of their concepts can easily fit into either a cost (e.g., peer disapproval) or benefit (e.g., peer approval) in a rational choice framework. However, it is true that one of the most beneficial aspects of rational choice models of offending is that it does indeed allow for the introduction of any aspects or factors that may influence individuals’ perceptions of anticipated costs or benefits given a particular opportunity to commit a criminal act. Given that the rational choice framework is more of a general theory of behavior, it should and must include all relevant factors in terms of specifying models for engaging in illegal acts, especially factors that significantly influence a person’s reasoning when deciding whether or not to engage in such activity. Therefore this criticism of being allowed to include many factors that influence individual decision making regarding various behaviors is also somewhat moot, because the inclusion of such factors that affect a person’s perception of expected costs versus benefits is what rational choice models of offending are inherently about.
Ultimately, the major criticisms against the integration or elaboration of rational choice models to include factors from more traditionally established models of crime have been shown to be weak at best. After all, why should any theory have “property claim rights” over any concept, factor, or proposition regarding human behavior. Thus, the introduction of the various concepts to the rational choice theoretical framework over the last decades should be embraced, especially in light of how much better the recent estimated rational choice models of crime have shown success in creating a far better understanding of individuals’ perceptions in choosing whether or not to engage in a given criminal act.
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