Concept of the Month -- July/August 2011

Criminals Do Learn from Past Experience

The professional literature suggests that people who live a criminal life style do not learn from experience. They state that this is an inherent personality trait. Those who make this observation have many illustrations of this pattern. For example, criminals often end up in legal trouble. The recidivism rate is extremely high. Getting arrested, going to jail, even serving a prison sentence do not appear to prompt reformation. Moreover, offenders constantly get themselves into serious difficulty at work, in relationships, financially, and in many other areas of life. They appear not to use past consequences as a guide to future conduct.

The fact is that criminals do learn from experience. Tney simply do not learn that which society wants them to learn. In areas of life that are important to them, they are guided by past events. For example, they may not make the same mistake twice in committing a particular type of crime. They become shrewder and more careful. The point is that there is no inherent incapacity to benefit from experience. This is also demonstrated in instances when a criminal decides to change his thinking and behavior. He then utilizes past irresponsible conduct as a guide to thinking and behaving more responsibly in the present and the future. Context is all important!

Return to Dr. Samenow's Homepage