Humans are social animals interacting with one another each and every day, where there are interactions between individuals there are psychological theories to try and explain the nature in which individuals and society act. The application of psychology in a social environment is known as social psychology. Gordon W. Allport (1954) pioneered the definition that “social psychology is the attempt to scientifically explain how thoughts, feelings, and behaviours of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of other human beings.”
Within communities individuals do not always follow the norms set by society, deviating from the way in which others think they should act. One way in which individuals in society can deviate is through criminal acts like criminal damage. The criminal damage act 1971, states the following acts fall under criminal damage; threats to destroy or damage property, destroying or damaging property and possessing objects with intent to damage or destroy property. (UK Crime Stats) In England and Wales throughout the month of October 2013 alone a total of 43,795 acts of criminal damage and arson were recorded. This is the second highest crime recorded falling below violent crime. As the accounts of criminal damage rose by 3,790 from the month of September to October the relevance of trying to prevent criminal damage with applicable interventions has never been in more demand. Within our westernised communities there are no interventions for individuals that carry out criminal damage only punishments which on the whole seem to not work as a deterant as the numbers of recorded acts of criminal damage are ever increasing with the likelihood of reoffending also being high. R v Gwynn  2 Cr.App.R.(S.) 41 states that the Crown Court should not enforce sequential sentences greater than six months for criminal damage offences causing less than £5000 worth of damage. This means if a neighbour’s window is smashed or a bus shelter damaged, which still affects the community the damage does not seem significant enough to inflict long term sentencing. This is where social psychological theories can help provide a means to intervene with criminal damage offenders to try and make the world a better place.
A traditional theory to try and explain why individuals partake in a criminal act is the choice theory. This theory takes the beliefs that offender’s thoughts are completely rationalised when making the decision to commit a crime (Siegel, 2005, p.73). Siegel, believes there are a variety of reasons to why people offend starting with fulfilling there personal needs including greed, revenge, need, anger, lust, jealousy, thrill and vanity stating all individuals have the free will to choose to act criminal or conventional. This is where rewards and positive reinforcement could be carried out to help individuals reap the benefits of choosing to act conventional and not criminal. These rewards can be carried out at schools and homes from an early age to give children a sense of personal responsibility for the actions they choice to carry out. Skinner (1938) stated that behaviours and actions that are reinforced tend to be strengthened where as those not reinforced tend to become weak and die out. This is important when trying to change the way people behave. If offender’s actions of criminal damage are not reinforced then they are more likely to become weak therefore decreasing the likelihood of reoffending.
Numerous psychologists over many years have tried to explain the reasons behind why an individual acts in a criminal manor; debating such thoughts like whether they imitate behaviours they have watched through incidental learning, or act criminally because they feel in competition with other groups in society (Tom Tyler, 2006), or are…