Rational Choice Theory

5. Conclusion

RCT presumes that there is no strong or compelling motivation to commit criminal acts; instead, crime occurs when someone rationally thinks that a criminal course of action has more benefits and lower costs than a noncriminal alternative course of action. RCT theorists believe, therefore, that offenders are rational enough to calculate the costs and benefits of both criminal behavior and conventional behavior and that they will generally choose the behavior with the highest utility. This does not mean that people collect all necessary information before they make a decision, or that they perfectly weigh the various costs and benefits of offending and not offending. RCT simply assumes that people are rational enough that they are affected by what they think to be the gains and losses of various courses of action. RCT has been used to understand a wide variety of criminal offenses (property, drug, violent, sexual, and white-collar offenses) and is one of the most general theories in criminology. A belief that offenders rationally choose to commit crimes is also a foundation of the criminal justice system and can be easily used as a basis for many crime prevention programs.

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