“Personality is the dynamic organisation within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his characteristics behaviour and though” (Allport, 1961, p. 28). In relation to crime, personality is usually the main factor that criminologists look at to figure out why the individual committed a certain crime. Personality disorders have been argued to be the cause of why people commit crime and it becomes apparent during childhood or early adulthood. This poster will present Freud’s psychodynamic approach in application to the case of Andrew Cunanan.
The psychodynamic approach looks into an individual’s early childhood experiences to look at what caused them to offend. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) developed the psychodynamic theory of personality where he believed that there was an interaction between nature which had to do with innate instincts and nurture being parental influences. According to Freud’s theory, personality is known to involve several factors such as instinctual drives, early childhood influences and the unconscious processes. Freud (1923) developed the structure of the human mind which is made up of the id, ego and superego;
1. Id- this is known as the pleasure principle because every impulse an individual gets should fully be satisfied as soon as possible, regardless of the consequences that come up with it (Freud, 1920). The id is known to be made of several biological components of personality consisting of sex instincts and aggression.
2. Ego- the ego acts as a referee because it develops to mediate between the unrealistic id and the outside world, so it is basically the decision-making component of personality. The ego is known as the reality principle meaning that it tries to work out our realistic ways of satisfying the demands that come with id.
3. Superego- this is similar to our conscience, which tends to punish the ego by having feelings of guilt. It tries to include the morals and values that society portrays, this is learnt from parents and other people around us.
Eysenck (1977) came up with a theory of criminal personality in which he argued that personality is biological and crime begins from an individuals personality traits being, neuroticism and extroversion.
• Extroversion- is the amount of stimulation an individual requires from their surroundings.
• Neuroticism- the stability of someone’s personality
Overall, Eysenck theorised that individuals who show high levels of both traits are most likely to be criminals, firstly they look for some sort of stimulation (extroversion) and they never learn from their mistakes (neuroticism).
Andrew Cunanan is famously known as the American Spree Killer who murdered five people in the space of 3 months, he is famously known for the killing of fashion designer Gianni Versace in 1997. Cunanan was never convicted for the crimes because he was found to have committed suicide with the same gun he used to kill two of his victims.
Connecting this case with Freud’s model, the id is known to be the most impulsive part of the model which tends to respond immediately and directly. Andrew was known to be extremely violent especially during his teenage years to the point where he one time pushed his mum and caused her to dislocate her shoulder during an argument about him coming out about his sexuality. The id is known to represent unconscious drives for sex and other requirements (Freud, 1933). The id is mostly concerned with instant pleasure and satisfaction while not taking into consideration the consequences. Cunanan clearly portrayed strong urges to kill all those five people especially when it came to the reasons as to why he had done them, and it was mainly out of jealousy, necessity and mostly anger. During the killings he never considered the consequences, so he was in full id mode to the point where police found stubble in the sink of one of his victims, this just showed how self-centred Cunanan was and how presentable he wanted to make himself look, which in relation to the theory, is the ego. The superego was unfortunately not present when Cunanan was carrying out these murders as he never felt any remorse or guilt as it was overpowered by his id and he was going after what he wanted which was murder.
ü A strength of the theory is that is has provided a good insight into how an individuals early experiences can affect them later on in life. The theory takes into consideration the nature and nurture debate. Freud argued that our adult personality is made up of innate drives like the urges and natural motivations we are born with.
û One of the weaknesses of this theory is that Freud focused too much on the structure of the human mind and did not pay attention to the impact the environment, culture or sociology had on an individual’s personality. His theories were known to be highly focused on pathology rather than focusing more on ‘normal’ healthy functioning. He has been criticised many times for his short-sighted views on the sexuality of humans excluding other necessary factors.
Psychodynamic theory has an overall suggestion that criminals are consistently remembering past events that occurred to them during their childhood. Freud’s theory suggests that if an individual does not portray the superego in their personality then it is clearly related to any offending behaviours, as it exemplifies our conscience and the sense of what is right and wrong. To sum up, Freud’s theory provides a good explanation for Andrew Cunanan’s case, in terms that his superego was under-developed, hence the reason for the murders and why he also acted in ways that indulged the id.