Key Study: Biology and Crime (Raine, 1997)

Travis DixonBiological Psychology, Criminology

There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that biology influences criminal behaviours.

British Psychologist Adrian Raine is a criminologist who specializes in studies investigating biological correlates of criminal behaviour. In a study conducted in 1997, Raine used PET scans to compare the brains of two groups:

  1. Convicted murderers who had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI),
  2. Non-murderers.

Because of its role in emotion and behaviour regulation and control, Raine hypothesized that there would be significant differences in the brain activity in the prefrontal cortex (i.e. the murderers would have lower activity in their PFC) and this is indeed what he discovered. There were also abnormal asymmetries of activity (differences between the two hemispheres) in some areas of the brain, including the amygdala and the hippocampus. These findings, Raine concludes, suggests that there may be some biological factors that make some individuals more likely to commit violent acts.

Read more:

As violence is no longer a topic in the new course, this study should only be used by students to support other core arguments.

Here you can see Raine in an interview explaining biological origins of violence.

Understanding the brain is a key theme in our unit on Criminology. This covers most of the Biological Approach in IB Psychology and some other topics, too.


Raine, Adrian, Monte Buchsbaum, and Lori Lacasse. “Brain Abnormalities in Murderers Indicated by Positron Emission Tomography.” Biological Psychiatry 42.6 (1997): 495-508. You can find the original study here.