Obituary: Professor Gordon Trasler ; Psychologist Who Denied Easy Explanations for Criminality
Gloria Laycock, Ken Pease and Peter Venables, The Independent (London, England)
GORDON TRASLER was the first Professor of Psychology at Southampton University. He was a self-effacing man whose contribution to the psychology of criminality and delinquency would have been more noticed had he been more in the public eye.
At a time when the study of criminality by psychologists was in its infancy, he broke new ground with his 1962 book The Explanation of Criminality, which pre-dated Hans Eysenck in pointing to the relationship between neuroticism, extroversion and crime, and was seminal in the way in which it sought to explain crime by reference to offender personality.
In his writings he argued strongly for an eclectic approach, dismissing those who thought that explanation of antisocial behaviour could be found simply in social or biological or learning theory sources. Although he did not formally use the term "biosocial" as an approach to the explanation of criminality he was a pioneer in this view, which is now acknowledged as the only sensible way to seek explanation of criminal behaviour.
He was not known for his own research on the topic; nevertheless his contribution was considerable. His analysis that we should distinguish between those crimes that involve the violation of norms usually established in childhood, such as stealing or aggressive and assaultive behaviour, and those for which there was not a childhood analogue, such as the evasion of taxes, breaches of traffic regulations and trading in addictive drugs, gave clarity to our thinking about these problems. If applied carefully this should have led to distinguishing between the likely effectiveness of sanctions against these two types of behaviour. Unfortunately there is a tendency for us to go on inventing the wheel when people like Gordon Trasler have already provided us with the blueprint.
Trasler was born in 1929 in Bournemouth, where his father worked for Royal Insurance. He grew up in Middlesex, attending Isleworth Grammar School before moving to Bryanston. After two years' National Service with the Royal Fusiliers he went to University College, Exeter, in 1949, then an external college of London University, to study Economics as an undergraduate, and Psychology as a postgraduate. His doctoral thesis, on foster care in Devon, was later published as In Place of Parents (1960).
In 1955 he joined the Prison Service as one of the first prison psychologists and began his career in Wandsworth, where he administered innumerable personality and intelligence tests to inmates. So many inmates were tested that they became familiar with the questions and passed them around. Thereafter he worked at Winchester Prison, testing prisoners and writing reports for court. In the 1950s this was the stuff of prison psychology.
In 1957 Trasler left the Prison …
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Publication information: Article title: Obituary: Professor Gordon Trasler ; Psychologist Who Denied Easy Explanations for Criminality. Contributors: Gloria Laycock, Ken Pease and Peter Venables - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 17, 2002. Page number: 18. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.