Evolution, the Cognitive Sciences, and the Science of Victimization

Publication Year


Journal Article

Despite clear aversion to such labels, one of the most impactful criminological theories is rooted in cognitive science. Gottfredson and Hirschi's general theory has been repeatedly tested, replicated relatively well, and has since reached beyond its original scope to explain other important outcomes like victimization. However, the work never viewed itself as part of a larger scientific landscape and resisted the incursion of neuroscience, cognitive science, and evolutionary theory from the start. This missed opportunity contributes to some of the theory's shortcomings. We begin by considering relevant literatures that were originally excluded and then conduct a new analysis examining the cognitive underpinnings of victimization in a high-risk sample of adolescents. We used the Future of Families and Child Wellbeing Study (n = 3,444; 48% female; 49% Black, 25% Hispanic) which contained sound measures of self-control and intelligence, as well as four types of adolescent victimization. Self-control was robustly associated with all forms of victimization, whereas intelligence had generally no detectable effect. We discuss how these findings fit into a broader understanding about self-control and victimization.

Evolutionary Psychology