What’s the Recipe for a Criminal?

What makes someone turn to crime? Well, there are an uncontrollable number of answers to this question, such as; poverty, circumstances, family background, social status, or genes, cognition, biology, and inheritance. But when you get right down to it, we return to one of the most heated ongoing debates in psychology: the Nature vs. Nurture debate.


A genetic analysis was done across almost 900 offenders in Finland, and psychologists have found that there are two genes associated with violent crimes. People with these genes are 13 times more likely to have a history of criminal behaviour. And at least 5-10% of of Finland’s violent crime is caused by these genes. One of the genes is called MAOA, also know as the ‘Warrior Gene’. 

Of these 900 offenders, each was categorised into a different group regarding how violent the crime they committed was. The study found that the strongest association into the crime and committed and the person’s genotype was present in the 70% categorised in the “extremely violent offender” group. This group all carried a low-activity version on the MAOA gene.

But the researchers emphasised that MAOA cannot be used for predicting criminal behaviour, the study simply shows a correlation between the gene and a history of violence, for not everyone with the gene will commit a crime. But why is that so?


One of the most prominent ideas to answer this question is the theory that growing up in a violent background or with a violent childhood will trigger this gene, making that person more likely to commit a crime. Therefore the gene, with the violent background, creates an outcome of likely criminal behaviour.

Jim Fallon, an accomplished neuroscientist and researcher in the mind of a killer, has indicated the idea of how the gene could be concentrated in violent countries. He states that boys with the MAOA gene will have grown up in a violent environment, which combined with the gene, will likely make them a violent person. Females will instinctively be looking for a mate to protect them, so they will be drawn towards the violent men. Then their children, will inherit the MAOA gene, which is how the gene stays concentrated in violent countries.

“So I think after several generations, and here is the idea, we really have a tinder box.” said Fallon on the Ted Talk: “Exploring the Mind of a Killer”.

Even though we can see patterns of what might be a recipe for disaster, there are still many uncertainties left to ponder upon on what makes a criminal, such as: is there a fool-proof way to detect criminals before they commit a crime?







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