New methods for examining expertise in burglars in natural and simulated environments: preliminary findings

Claire Nee, Martin White, Kirk Woolford, Tudor Pascu, Leon Barker, Lucy Wainwright

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Abstract

Expertise literature in mainstream cognitive psychology is rarely applied to criminal behaviour. Yet, if closely scrutinised, examples of the characteristics of expertise can be identified in many studies examining the cognitive processes of offenders, especially regarding residential burglary. We evaluated two new methodologies that might improve our understanding of cognitive processing in
offenders through empirically observing offending behaviour and decision-making in a freeresponding environment. We tested hypotheses regarding expertise in burglars in a small, exploratory study observing the behaviour of ‘expert’ offenders (ex-burglars) and novices (students) in a real and in a simulated environment. Both samples undertook a mock burglary in a real house
and in a simulated house on a computer. Both environments elicited notably different behaviours between the experts and novices with experts demonstrating superior skill. This was seen in: more time spent in high value areas; fewer and more valuable items stolen; and more systematic routes taken around the environments. The findings are encouraging and provide support for the development of these observational methods to examine offender cognitive processing and behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-513
JournalPsychology, Crime & Law
Volume21
Issue number5
Early online date17 Dec 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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