Rational Choice & Psychopathy: A Theoretical Comparison

Dylan Brown

CRIM 300w C100

October 11, 2015


Within the discipline of criminology, the examining of why people commit crime is

of vital importance in the ongoing discussion of how crime should be controlled and averted.

Many criminological theories have materialized over time, and these philosophies continue to

be studied, independently as well as in amalgamation, as criminologists ultimately pursue

preeminent solutions in reducing types and levels of crime.

For this essay, I have chosen Scenario A, and will employ rational choice theory as

well as psychopathy in critically analyzing the case of Dr. Lonnie Patrick. For the purpose of

this essay, hypothetical information will be introduced into the original scenario. Primarily,

this paper aims to provide a detailed, four-step analysis of Dr. Patrick's situation. Firstly, a

comprehensive exploration of the scenario utilizing both theories will be included, followed

by a compare and contrast section in which the strengths and weaknesses of each theory will

be evaluated in accordance with the specifics involving the case of Dr. Patrick. A portion will

also be dedicated to addressing theoretical integration and policy and practice implications.

Theory Exploration

Rational Choice Theory
Originating within and progressing upon the fundamentals of the c lassical school of
criminology as well as deterrence theory, t he proverbial starting point of contemporary
rational choice theory ( RCT ) is that criminals pursue personal benefit to them selves by their
criminal actions and decisions ( Clarke & Cornish, 2014 ) . These choices are purposeful (or
never senseless), and are assumed to be rational within the constraints of aptitude , time,
ability , and the readiness of pertinent information ( Clarke & Cornish, 2014 ).
Using some of the basic propositions of crime theorized by Clarke and Cornish
(2001) , rational choice theory can be applied in an attempt to better understand the scenario
involving Dr. Patrick. Dr. Patrick was convicted of committing sexual assault, a direct and
purposive act that brought upon instantaneous satisfaction and gratification at the expense of
his unconscious victim. He also committed the offense while performing a routine medical
exam , one of his many job requirements as a medical doctor. The location in which Dr.
Patrick committed the criminal act and specific nature of the crime (raping an unconscious
victim in his place of business) allowed Dr. Patrick to formulate the rapid decision to offend
within the confi nes of his practice during the relatively short duration of the routine medical
examination , as well as within the constructs of his limited rationality.
Considering specific involvement and event decisions ( Clarke & Cornish, 20 01 ) made
by Dr. Patrick encourages and increases the practicality of RCT in dissecting the criminal act
in this particular incident . Background factors, as well as current life circumstances and
situational variables ( Clarke & Cornish, 2001 ) all can further our understanding of the
scenario of Dr. Patrick . Raised by an abusive mother, Dr. Patrick harvested animosity
towards women at a young age. Struggling with a failing marriage and unfilled sex life, as
well as financia l pressures, Dr. Patrick became increasingly frustrated and started searching
for an outlet. When a young, attracti ve women (a new patient ) comes in for her first medical
examination , Dr. Patrick sees an opportunity to release his sexual tension by way of raping
his new patient while she is unconscious. Within the course of a few minutes, h e considers
factors such as the risk of imprisonment , the level and immediacy of reward, and any moral
predicament he may be subjected to for his actions. He also feels a heightened level of
familiarity and dominance over his victim with the encounter occurring within his medical
examination room. Dr. Patrick ultimately decides that the personal benefits are worth the
risk , and commits the crime. However, Dr. Patrick is a first-time offender, and has no time to
habituate his actions, nor the ability to consciously desist from his criminal act, as his victim
awakes during the assault and immediately flees the room.
Psychopathy , one of the most commonly associated theories to attempt to explain
violent offenders ( specific ally male offenders) a