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

Snook, B, Dhami, MK and Kavanagh, JM (2011) Simply criminal: predicting burglars' occupancy decisions with a simple heuristic. Law and Human Behavior, 35 (4). pp. 316-326.

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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. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Snook, B
Dhami, MK
Kavanagh, JM
Date : August 2011
DOI : 10.1007/s10979-010-9238-0
Related URLs :
Additional Information : This is an electronic version of an article published as Snook B, Dhami MK, Kavanagh JM (2011). Simply criminal: predicting burglars' occupancy decisions with a simple heuristic. Law and Human Behavior 35(4):316-326 This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record. Available online at:
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 31 Oct 2012 16:40
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 14:37

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