What are the psychological factors of white collar crime?

On Behalf of | Sep 11, 2023 | blog, White Collar Crime

A Psychiatry, Psychology and Law study showed most people who commit white collar crimes have no prior criminal history. Additionally, the typical age of these offenders is mid-30s, which is much different in comparison to other types of criminal activity where the age is usually lower for a first-time offender.

White collar crime is different from other areas of criminal activity. It is a fascinating subject that delves deep into the human psyche. Understanding the psychology behind these offenses can shed light on the motivations and behaviors of those who engage in such activities.

Rationalization and justification

One psychological aspect of white collar crime is the ability of individuals to rationalize their actions. Offenders often convince themselves that their behavior is not truly criminal but rather a response to external pressures or a way to right perceived wrongs. This cognitive dissonance allows them to maintain a positive self-image despite their illicit actions.

Opportunity and temptation

Opportunities presented in professional settings often drive white collar crimes. The temptation to misuse positions of trust for personal gain can be overwhelming. Financial pressures or personal desires may exacerbate this situation.

Perceived low risk and high reward

These individuals frequently underestimate the chances of getting caught and overestimate the potential benefits of their actions. This skewed risk-reward perception can be a powerful motivator. They believe that the complexity of their crimes and their knowledge of the system will shield them from consequences.

Peer pressure and conformity

Some individuals engage in white collar crime due to peer pressure or a desire to conform to unethical workplace norms. They may fear ostracization or marginalization within their professional circles, which can lead them down a slippery ethical slope.

Gradual desensitization

Engaging in white collar crime often involves a gradual process of desensitization. Initially, individuals may engage in minor ethical breaches, rationalizing them as harmless. Over time, these small transgressions can escalate into more serious offenses as they become desensitized to their wrongdoing.

Lack of empathy

White collar criminals often display a lack of empathy for their victims, viewing them as faceless entities. This cognitive distortion allows them to distance themselves emotionally from the harm they cause.

The reasons why someone might commit a white collar crime are not as straightforward as those for street crimes. Much of the motivation is psychological, and understanding these elements can make it easier to help ensure this activity does not continue.