The first tenant of the differential association theory is cognitive behavior. Outside of spontaneity, criminal activity is learned.
To further this tenant, the learning process takes place within a social interaction of other people who practice and espouse the legitimacy of criminal actions. However, the process is often conducted in small groups with limited numbers where there is a perceived leader and director. The leader of the group will provide techniques and past successes of criminal activity to motivate and pervert the attitudes of others towards crime.
This is not meant to say that the individual is not aware of right and wrong nor is it meant to relate a moral deficiency. In fact, it is the legal codes that provide the very motivation for crimes, through social deprivation, social learning theory, and radicalization. From this a pattern of criminal activity can develop and said criminal activity will continue as long as the individual is successful in their criminal endeavors.
The introduction to criminal elements may also take place within an environment where the individual may be exposed to a criminal event or become a victim of crime. This is often determined upon the frequency, duration, priority, and intensity of the criminal activity. Based upon the sociological interaction and motivation to success, the abstract morals of right and wrong may be modified or even eliminated.
Because social deviance and criminal activity are learned by interactive association with other criminals, this creates a rather unique situation for the correctional administrator. The inmate population consists of those who are suspect and convicted of a criminal activity. These individuals naturally feel that they have received preferential treatment, injustice, and are victims of selective enforcement.
Automatic Information Processing
Differential association information processing is reflective of experience, learned response, and a typical stereotype. However, there is a noted