Positivist theory is a philosophical perspective that suggests the use of scientific methods and testable data study human behavior. It holds that there are observable realities in the world from which sociologists can derive conclusions about real-world occurrences. They rather emphasize the general regulations than explain any in particular. Thus, the theory’s explanation of unusual conduct can be said to be founded on three assumptions which are, absolutism, objectivism, and determinism. The three assumptions mean that abnormality is absolutely real and it exists in deviant people; abnormal behavior can be understood objectively through observation; and deviance is determined by factors that one cannot control (Humphrey, 2006).
Biological theories are scientific perspectives that try to relate human behavior to biology. It also uses suggest examination of human characteristics as an approach to understand abnormal behaviors like crimes. Scientists categorize biological theories into three groups according to their approach to the explanation of human behavior. The first category comprise of those theories that use specific innate physical characteristics to distinguish between individuals; the second category is made up of those theories that attempt to use sources of hereditary trait differences to explain behavior and the third category has biological theories that use chemical, functional, or structural differences in the body to differentiate the behavior of individuals.
Psychological theories are perspectives used to explain why people behave the way they do. There are a number of schools of thought that attempt to achieve this and they include structuralists, behaviorists, cognitivist, psychoanalytic, and others. In law and criminology, the theories can also be applied in understanding the motivation behind criminal behavior. The psychological theories mostly used in explaining this are those associated with behavioral traits like personality, intelligence, criminal behavior, and learning (Lary, Gunn, Xenos, & Promedion (Firm), Insight Media (Firm), 2005).
There are three main theories of psychology applied in the explanation of crime. The first is a behavioral theory that revolves around social learning and modeling of behavior. This means that behavioral theory looks at how the world perception of an individual determines how they behave. The next one is a psychodynamic theory founded on the idea that the possibility one will commit a crime at some point in their life is influenced by their early experiences as children. The other one is Cognitive theory which mainly holds that the likelihood of an individual to commit a crime is affected by their perception and the manifestation of personal views (Marsh & Melville, 2006).
Biological theory premises are used to explain certain views in both positivist and psychological theories. Positivist theory encompasses all Biological theories used to explain deviance and behavior in general. In other words, there are a number of biological theories that explain deviance but all of them can be grouped under the positivist paradigm. Thus they emphasize a common premise, which is the use of scientific investigations to explain behavior (Marsh & Melville, 2006). On the other hand, cognitive and behavioral theories emphasize social learning and personal perception as the motivations behind negative behavior. This sums up the premises of all the three approaches of the biological theory of deviance which are the use of innate physical traits, hereditary traits, and structural body differences. Essentially, the three factors are all responsible for social learning differences among individuals.
Moreover, since Biological theories are of the positivist paradigm and they are related to the psychological theories, the positivist theories are also in line with foundational assumptions of psychological theories (Humphrey, 2006). For example, the primary approach in both kinds of theories is the use of observable behavior to infer knowledge.
- Humphrey, J. A. (2006). Deviant behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
- Lary, B. K., Gunn, M., Xenos, D., & Promedion (Firm), Insight Media (Firm). (2005). The psychology of criminal behavior. New York, NY: Insight Media [distributor.
- Marsh, I., & Melville, G. (2006). Theories of crime. London: Routledge.