The relations between intellectual ability, criminal intent, and type of offense

Laurie Ann Kepecs-Schlussel, Fordham University


This research examined the relation of intellectual ability to the tendency toward involvement in certain criminal acts. Hypotheses examined whether differences in intellectual ability were related to the commission of violent versus non-violent crimes, and intentional versus non-intentional crimes. These relations were examined in consideration of other individual difference factors which differentiated offenders, such as ethnicity, level of education, prior criminal history, occupational status, age, marital status, drug use during commission of the crime, and commission of drug crimes. Archival data on inmates were collected from the New York State Department of Correctional Services. Subjects were categorized into 1 of 6 groups based on their convictions of offense at the time of incarceration: (a) First Degree Murder, (b) Second Degree Murder, (c) First Degree Manslaughter, (d) Second Degree Manslaughter, (e) Criminally Negligent Homicide, (f) Larceny. Chi-square analyses, correlational analyses, and multivariate analyses of variance were utilized to test hypotheses, with criminality and intent as independent variables, and ability, ethnicity, level of education, prior criminal history, and occupational status as dependent variables. The results indicated no significant difference in mean IQ between offenders incarcerated for homicide and offenders incarcerated for larceny, between offenders who committed intentional versus non-intentional crimes, and between offenders who committed premeditated versus non-premeditated crimes. Findings indicated that blacks and Hispanics were incarcerated for crimes of larceny or homicide at rates which far exceeded those for whites. Most incarcerated offenders did not complete high school, and were unemployed at the time of commission of the crime. Findings indicated a high rate of recidivism, particularly among offenders incarcerated for larceny. Given the findings of this research, it was determined that incarcerated offenders were a select population, and generalizability of findings from research on incarcerated offender populations may be limited. Offenders incarcerated for homicide may be a unique group of violent offenders, as the likelihood of conviction and incarceration for homicide is greater than for other crimes. Poor legal representation may have contributed to the likelihood of incarceration for blacks and Hispanics.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Criminology|Psychology

Recommended Citation

Kepecs-Schlussel, Laurie Ann, "The relations between intellectual ability, criminal intent, and type of offense" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9511220.