ABSTRACT

This chapter explores the implications of a critical-incident approach for criminology. A critical-incident metatheory is best seen as an overarching perspective from which to view behavior and methods of analyzing that behavior. One of the concrete contributions of a critical-incident perspective is prediction. It seems obvious that collections of events and factors can be aggregated and used to indicate a group that is “at risk.” The presence of general variables and “patterns” may result in evidence anticipated by current theories of behavior, but without either the order or specific variables envisioned by those theories. Theories that deal in structural and aggregate relationships demonstrate the effect of moving up in level of aggregation within a critical-incident perspective. Certain theories, such as social learning, may more closely approximate the processual and individual-level events anticipated by a critical-incident metatheory. A major criticism of social-learning theory has been the problem of reinforcement.