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.
Read more about Criminology Theories.
- Agnew, R. (1992). Foundation for a general strain theory of crime and delinquency. Criminology, 30, 47–88.
- Andenaes, J. (1974). Punishment and deterrence. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
- Anderson, L. S., Chiricos, T. G., & Waldo, G. P. (1977). Formal and informal sanctions: A comparison of deterrent effects. Social Problems, 25, 103–112.
- Becker, G. S. (1968). Crime and punishment: An economic approach. Journal of Political Economy, 76, 169–217.
- Clarke, R. V., & Cornish, D. B. (1985). Modeling offenders’ decisions: A framework for research and policy. In M. Tonry & N. Morris (Eds.), Crime and justice: An annual review of research (Vol. 6, pp. 147–185). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Cook, P. J. (1980). Research in criminal deterrence: Laying the groundwork for the second decade. In N. Morris & M. Tonry (Eds.), Crime and justice: An annual review of research (Vol. 2, pp. 211–268). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Cornish, D. B., & Clarke, R. V. (1986). The reasoning criminal: Rational choice perspectives on offending. New York: Springer-Verlag.
- Dugan, L., LaFree,G.,&Piquero,A. (2005).Testing a rational choice model of airline hijackings. Criminology, 43, 1031–1065.
- Grasmick, H. G., & Bursik, R. J., Jr. (1990). Conscience, significant others, and rational choice: Extending the deterrence model. Law & Society Review, 24, 837–862.
- Grasmick, H. G., Bursik, R. J., Jr., &Arneklev, B. (1993). Reduction in drunk driving as a response to increased threats of shame, embarrassment, and legal sanctions. Criminology, 31, 41–67.
- Green, L. (1995). Cleaning up drug hot spots in Oakland, California: The displacement and diffusion effects. Justice Quarterly, 12, 737–754.
- Kubrin, C. E., Stucky, T. D., & Krohn, M. D. (2009). Researching theories of crime and deviance. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Levitt, S. (2001). Deterrence. In J. Q. Wilson & J. Petersilia (Eds.), Crime: Public policies for crime control (pp. 435–450). Oakland, CA: ICS Press.
- Matsueda, R. L. (1988). The current state of differential association. Crime & Delinquency, 34, 277–306.
- McCarthy, B. (2002). New economics of sociological criminology. Annual Review of Sociology, 28, 417–442.
- Nagin, D. S. (1998). Criminal deterrence research at the outset of the twenty-first century. In N. Morris & M. Tonry (Eds.), Crime and justice: An annual review of research (Vol. 23, pp. 1–42). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Nagin, D. S. (2007). Moving choice to center stage in criminological research and theory. Criminology, 45, 259–272.
- Nisbett, R. E., & Cohen, D. (1996). Culture of honor: The psychology of violence in the South. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
- Paternoster, R. (1987). The deterrent effect of the perceived certainty and severity of punishment: A review of the evidence and issues. Justice Quarterly, 4, 173–217.
- Paternoster, R., Brame, R., & Bacon, S. (2008). The death penalty: America’s experience with capital punishment. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Paternoster, R., Saltzman, L. E., Waldo, G. P., & Chiricos, T. G. (1983). Perceived risk and social control: Do sanctions really deter? Law & Society Review, 17, 457–480.
- Petersilia, J. (2003). When prisoners come home: Parole and prisoner reentry. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Piliavin, I., Thornton, C., Gartner, R., & Matsueda, R. (1986). Crime, deterrence and rational choice. American Sociological Review, 51, 101–119.
- Pratt, C. T., Cullen, F. T., Blevins, K. R., Daigle, L. E., & Madensen, T. D. (2006). The empirical status of deterrence theory: A meta-analysis. In F. T. Cullen, J. P.Wright, & K. R. Blevins (Eds.), Taking stock: The status of criminological theory (pp. 367–395). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
- Roncek, D. W., & Maier, P. A. (1991). Bars, blocks and crimes revisited: Linking the theory of routine activities to the empiricism of hot spots. Criminology, 29, 725–753.
- Ross, L. H. (1984). Deterring the drunk driver: Legal policy and crime control. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
- Sherman, L. W. (1990). Police crackdowns: Initial and residual deterrence. In N. Morris & M. Tonry (Eds.), Crime and justice: An annual review of research (Vol. 12, pp. 1–48). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Sherman, L. W., & Berk, R. A. (1984). The specific deterrent effects of arrest for domestic assault. American Sociological Review, 49, 261–272.
- Weisburd, D., Waring, E., & Chayet, E. (1995). Specific deterrence in a sample of offenders convicted of white-collar crimes. Criminology, 33, 587–607.
- Weisburd, D., Wycoff, L. A., Ready, J., Eck, J. E., Hinkle, J. C., & Gajewski, H. (2006). Does crime just move around the corner? A controlled study of spatial displacement and diffusion of crime control benefits. Criminology, 44, 549–592.
- Wilson, J. Q., & Herrnstein, R. J. (1985). Crime and human nature. New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Zimring, F., & Hawkins, G. (1973). Deterrence. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.