Delinquency in Three Cultures

By Carl M. Rosenquist; Edwin I. Megargee | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
THE PHYSICAL EXAMINATION

Biological theories of criminality have a long history. One of the first such theories was formulated by Cesare Lombroso in 1876. In his first statement of his theory, Lombroso proposed that criminals could be recognized by distinctive physical characteristics or stig- mata, such as an asymmetrical cranium, an apelike chin, a flattened nose, or animal-like pouches in the cheeks ( Sutherland & Cressey, 1966; Vold, 1958). These characteristics were thought to identify people who were more primitive or savage, both in constitution and behavior.

It was natural that the Zeitgeist, or spirit of the times, in the late nineteenth century should have produced a biological theory of criminality. Franz Gall ( 1758-1828) and Johann Spurzheim ( 1776- 1832) had maintained that there was a close link between brain functioning and behavior, suggesting that specific parts of the brain were responsible for specific behavioral traits. They hypothesized that the relative development of these brain areas could be diagnosed by inspecting the skull: a bump indicated that one part and its associated behavior was strongly developed, and a dent meant that an area and the trait controlled by it were underdeveloped. While never fully accepted, this study of "phrenology" achieved great popularity throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century; The Journal of Phrenology was born in 1823 and didn't die until 1911 ( Boring, 1950).

Charles Darwmi's Origin of Species, published in 1859, further emphasized man's biological nature. In the Expression of the Emo-

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