The Social Learning Theory and The Appeal to Consequences

I believe the reason why crimes happen is because criminals do not follow social norms or laws ( they tend to not fit in with The Social Learning Theory as well as disregarding the consequences. The Social Learning Theory and The Appeal to Consequences are some of the proposed reasons as to why people commit or do not commit crimes. According to the social learning theory, people are capable of changing their behavior from evil to good by learning good behavior through positive influences ( Some ways that a person might learn good behavior is through their upbringing and/ or observing social norms. One such social norm and/ or a way to up-bring a child is through observing or teaching the notion that every action has it’s consequences. For example, if a reasonable person runs a red light they know they will get a ticket. Therefore, knowing these detrimental consequences to these ‘crimes’ they know it be best not to commit these ‘crimes’ because they don’t want to get in to trouble!

This type of learned or observed thinking discussed previously is known as The Appeal to Consequences. The Appeal to Consequences states that a person would not commit a certain act because of its consequences ( Thus, some may say that ‘the appeal to consequences’ is not an accurate way to determine why a criminal commits a crime because this type of thinking is commonly found as a fallacy. For example, one might argue,”I don’t think that there will be a nuclear war. If I believed that, I wouldn’t be able to get up in the morning. I mean, how depressing”( Thus, this is commonly found to be a fallacy because it does not follow logic rather consequences instead; using the example above, just because you can sleep at night does not mean a nuclear war wouldn’t happen. Your consequence of believing that a nuclear war’s chances of happening is irrelevant to your presupposed consequence. Maybe you slept well because you had a nice dinner.

I contend, however, the appeal to consequences is not always defined as a fallacy. This particular case may be a case where the appeal to consequences is a fallacy, but again it is NOT always the case. The appeal to consequences, in my case, is not discussing it as a fallacy, rather  discussing it in a more generic definition. That is, people in general logically do things or don’t do things because of the resulting consequences.

For example, it is generally logical and reasonable to assume that running a red light will result in a ticket because it is a traffic law in all states ( For example, New Jersey statue or N.J.S.A 39:4-8.15 states that, “The owner and operator shall be jointly liable for a traffic control signal violation summons issued … who pays any fine, penalty, civil judgment, costs or administrative fees in connection with a traffic control signal violation has the right to recover that sum from the operator in a court of competent jurisdiction” ( In plainer English, the person who violates a traffic violation is liable for that violation by paying a fine (unless the person can prove in a court that the person was not liable for that violation).

However, since most criminals do not follow social norms or laws ( they tend to not fit in with The Social Learning Theory and they disregard consequences (this is, again, used in a generic way, not as a fallacy) too. By not fitting into the S.L.T. and by disregarding the appeal to consequences, they will tend to appeal to emotions rather than logic; they tend to be sporadic and demonstrate rather violent behavior. Crimes happen or rather are more likely to happen when violent behavior is demonstrated.


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