Concept of the Month -- July 2012

Criminals Do Learn from Experience

An often cited characteristic of individuals with an antisocial personality disorder is their failure to learn from experience. One need only cite recidivism sttatistics that indicate many offenders return to their former way of life even after multiple terms served in jail or prison. Moreover, offenders persist in behaving in such a manner so as to harm people closest to them -- parents, siblings, spouses, children, even pets.

People are amazed that these men and women who are reasonably intelligent keep digging themselves into holes and finding themselves in serious predicaments over and over. They do not seem to get the message that crime does not pay. It is not only illegal acts that they continue to commit but they also repeat the same irresponsible patterns that result in breakups in relationships and financial ruin. Little or nothing seems to change in the way that they lead their lives. And so it seems that there must be some incapacity to learn from experience no matter how intelligent they are.

In reality, there is no inherent inability to benefit from experience. The problem is that criminals do not learn what society wants them to learn. To comprehend this, we must understand the criminal from his point of view. Then we can grasp what is important to him. He is perfectly able to learn from the past so as to devise a better scheme, learn to be more patient in casing out a situation, plan how to better conceal his transgressions, and so forth. In short, he can learn from experience in areas that matter to him!

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