A comparison of younger and older burglars undertaking virtual burglaries: the development of skill and automaticity

Amy Meenaghan, Claire Nee, Zarah Vernham, Marco Otte

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Objectives: The study examines the development of offence-related expertise over time and age in a sample of convicted burglars.

Methods: A quasi-experimental design was used to assess indicators of expertise in younger (n=36) and older (n=32) burglars as they completed a “virtual burglary”. It was predicted that (i) older burglars would use more efficient scoping and searching strategies than younger burglars, and (ii) older burglars would be more discerning in their selection of items to steal than younger burglars.

Results: Findings suggested that indicators of expertise were evident in both age groups however, compared to younger burglars, older burglars demonstrated more developed expertise in relation to items stolen and the efficiency of the search.

Conclusions: The research supports the role that expertise plays in offence-related decision-making across the criminal career. It provides additional support for the use of VR to assess offender expertise.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
Early online date24 Jun 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 24 Jun 2023


  • Expertise
  • Burglary
  • Virtual reality

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