Rational Choice Theory
Rational choice theory’s based on the assumption that when people are faced with several courses of action, they will usually do what they believe is likely to have the best overall outcome (Elster, 1989). The rational choice theory of deviance states that deviant behavior occurs when a person weighs the cos and benefits of nonconvertible or crinoline behavior and determines that the benefits will outweigh the risks Involved in such actions. Rational choice approaches suggest that most people who commit crimes do not engage in random acts of antisocial behavior: Instead. the}’ make careful decisions based on weighing the available informational regarding situation [actors, such as the place of the crime. suitable targets. and the availability of people to deter the behavior. and penal factors. such as what rewards they may gain from their criminal behavior (Siegel.2007).
How useful is rational choice theory in explaining deviance and crime? A major strength of this theory is that it explains why high-risk youths do not constantly engage in delinquent acts: They have learned to balance risk against the potential for criminal gain in each situation. Moreover. rational choice theory is not limited by the underlying assumption of most social structural theories. which is that the primary participants in deviant and criminal behaviors are people in the lower classes. Rational choice theory also has important policy implications regarding crime reduction or prevention. suggesting that people must be taught that the risks of engaging in criminal behavior far outweigh any benefits they may gain from their actions. Thus, people should be taught not to engage in crime.