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Simply criminal: predicting burglars' occupancy decisions with a simple heuristic



Simply criminal: predicting burglars' occupancy decisions with a simple heuristic



Law and Human Behavior 35(4): 316-326



Rational choice theories of criminal decision making assume that offenders weight and integrate multiple cues when making decisions (i.e., are compensatory). We tested this assumption by comparing how well a compensatory strategy called Franklin's Rule captured burglars' decision policies regarding residence occupancy compared to a non-compensatory strategy (i.e., Matching Heuristic). Forty burglars each decided on the occupancy of 20 randomly selected photographs of residences (for which actual occupancy was known when the photo was taken). Participants also provided open-ended reports on the cues that influenced their decisions in each case, and then rated the importance of eight cues (e.g., deadbolt visible) over all decisions. Burglars predicted occupancy beyond chance levels. The Matching Heuristic was a significantly better predictor of burglars' decisions than Franklin's Rule, and cue use in the Matching Heuristic better corresponded to the cue ecological validities in the environment than cue use in Franklin's Rule. The most important cue in burglars' models was also the most ecologically valid or predictive of actual occupancy (i.e., vehicle present). The majority of burglars correctly identified the most important cue in their models, and the open-ended technique showed greater correspondence between self-reported and captured cue use than the rating over decision technique. Our findings support a limited rationality perspective to understanding criminal decision making, and have implications for crime prevention.

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Accession: 055783008

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 20556493

DOI: 10.1007/s10979-010-9238-0


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