Sincere thanks to all who attended the events at Central Michigan University on February 23 and for the incredibly warm response; CMU was the inaugural event for previewing “Viral Ethics” documentary footage, and associated research. Your input and questions will be valuable additions to the ongoing process.
Further clarification was requested regarding research findings as associated with Rational Choice Theory and Fundamental Attribution Error. The research, conducted with forty white collar criminals while still in prison for their crimes, indicated that Rational Choice Theory (which suggests that criminals go through a cost-benefit analysis of the crime before committing it) needs further clarification in regards to white collar crime. Only two of the forty criminals I interviewed indicated that they weighed the risks and benefits prior to committing their crime. The other 38 (95%) claimed that they entered into the crime in small steps and did not consider legal risks until they believed they were inescapably involved in the criminal process. While most (70%) say they should have recognized the early events as potentially criminal, all that claimed they were oblivious to the risks said they were focused on the situation as it existed and did not recognize early actions as a choice between legal sanctions and criminal gain. For additional reading see Bouffard (2007).
Research that involved comparing feedback from both criminals and auditors (some of whom were involved in the same cases) focused on the role of Fundamental Attribution Error. In simple terms, fundamental attribution error is a term in psychology that refers to how we automatically view our own behaviors as a reaction to the situation we are in, but we view the behavior of others as a reflection of their character. This concept was found to have great influence on both sides of the cases I examined, with criminals being over-focused on their situation, and auditors being over-focused on the characteristics of the criminal. Simply put, this caused short sightedness and poor decision processes for both parties. For additional reading see Sabini and Silver (1983).
Bouffard, J. (2007). Predicting differences in the perceived relevance of crime’s costs and benefits in a test of rational choice theory. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 51(4). 461-485.
Sabini, J. and Silver, M. (1983), Dispositional vs. Situational Interpretations of Milgram’s Obedience Experiments: “The Fundamental Attributional Error”. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 13: 147–154. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-5914.1983.tb00468.x