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Expert Decisionmaking in Burglars

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 46 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2006 Pages: 935-949
Claire Nee; Amy Meenaghan
Date Published
September 2006
15 pages
This paper briefly reviews some of the salient findings on burglary in the United Kingdom from a cognitive processing point of view and attempts to make links with the broader literature on expertise and automatic responses to visual stimuli.
Study results showed that 45 out of 50 burglars had a predictable search pattern and 37 spontaneously described their searches using terms signifying automaticity, an underlying feature of expertise. This research provides additional evidence that the majority of burglars typically use sequential, “searching” strategies when choosing a target, as opposed to knowing their target and planning ahead, or impulsively responding to potentially lucrative opportunities when they come upon them in the environment. The scale of concentration used to tease out the difference between focused attention and more automatic methods of searching did not provide reliable ratings. However, it proved useful in stimulating coherent and consistent descriptions of the automacticity of the search without any prompting. It strongly supports the view of the burglar as a rational, “expert” agent. Over the last 20 years, studies of burglars and burglary have shed light on the cognitive processes involved in property selection at the scene of the crime. This study begins with a review of research on the cognitive processing used by residential burglars when choosing targets. It attempts to find links between this processing and the notion of expertise and presents data from interviews with 50 experienced burglars. References


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