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Psychology   >   Forensic Psychology – Criminality

Lombroso and the ‘Born Criminal’

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Forensic Psychology – Criminality

In this course, Professor Francis Pakes (University of Portsmouth) explores key issues in criminal psychology. In the first lecture, we think about Lombroso and the notion of the ‘born criminal’. In the second lecture, we discuss genetic explanations for crime more broadly. In the third lecture, we examine cognitive explanations for crime, focusing in particular on moral reasoning. Next, we think about cognitive distortions as a cognitive explanation for crime. In the fifth lecture, we consider the criminal justice system, focusing on the aims of imprisonment. In the sixth and final lecture, we think about recidivism.

Lombroso and the ‘Born Criminal’

In this lecture, we think about the work of the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso, focusing in particular on: (i) his famous work L’uomo delinquente [Delinquent Man] (1878) in which he proposed that criminality was a genetic trait and that criminals could be recognised by a certain set of atavistic physiological characteristics; (ii) the origins of Lombroso’s theory of atavistic form in his work as a physician and consider its critical success in nineteenth-century Italy and beyond; (iii) the suggestion that, while Lombroso’s work was significant in advancing the popularity of criminology and promoting a scientific approach to understanding crime, it was also fundamentally flawed and marked by scientific racism, classism and misogyny.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Pakes, F. (2019, October 22). Forensic Psychology – Criminality - Lombroso and the ‘Born Criminal’ [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Pakes, F. "Forensic Psychology – Criminality – Lombroso and the ‘Born Criminal’." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 22 Oct 2019,


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Prof. Francis Pakes

Portsmouth University