Melbourne is reeling from a tragedy at the moment. Once more we have the case of an offender who has committed a large scale crime. This time the weapon was a car and it resulted in multiple victim’s deaths and injuries.
Once more there will be soul searching and recriminations about whether previous offending was dealt with severely enough or whether the offender was let off too lightly. I think that the bigger issue is that we are not coming to grips with the dominant cause of violent behaviour.
Adrian Raine, the neurocriminologist, has demonstrated that there is a strong genetic cause to violent behaviour – he has shown that being jailed for violent crime is at least 50% caused by the person’s genes (Raine, 2014).
Sadly we find in so many cases that the spectacular crime that catches our attention and results in widespread tragedy is just the peak of a long record of such behaviour. My point is that ignoring the genetic causes of violence simply results in more victims. Education programmes focussing on why we should respect each other, abhor violence against women and act to minimise bullying are a great idea and there is strong evidence that they work. But they are not enough. If someone has a genetic inclination to do something then community education programmes are unlikely to have much effect.
What Raine suggests is a kind of early intervention approach where people who demonstrate genetic inclination to violence are required to participate in programmes designed to increase self-awareness of the tendency to violence and self-control so that the tendency is not lived out. He also suggests a kind of ongoing surveillance which civil libertarians would have big problems with. In any event, ignoring the genetic causes of violence seems to be resulting in more victims, and that is a very sad thing.
These genetic tendencies also apply in employees, but we have the advantage in companies that we can screen for them and simply not hire people who show the markers such as trait anger which show up in psychological assessments. Click here to find out how to identify these markers.
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Raine, A, 2014. The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological roots of Crime. Penguin Books.