Sutherland, Cleckley and Beyond: White-Collar Crime and Psychopathy

  •  Frank Perri    
  •  Terrance Lichtenwald    
  •  Edyta Mieczkowska    


Scholarship on white-collar crime by Edwin Sutherland and on psychopathy by Hervey Cleckley influenced criminological and behavioral research on personality traits in the twentieth century and beyond. Over seventy years have passed since their publications, yet white-collar crime scholarship historically and personality traits associated with such offenders to date remains sparse despite the enormity of damage caused by this crime. The authors’ analysis contributes to a clearer historical understanding of why empirical white-collar crime scholarship aimed at developing a white-collar offender profile(s) is highly underrepresented in the behavioral and criminological fields relative to non-white-collar crime. The authors found that a plausible partial explanation for the lack of research can be traced to 1) Sutherland’s antagonistic view toward the contributions by the behavioral disciplines, 2) minimizing scholarship advocating a multiple factor approach to understanding criminal behavior, and 3) rejection of an inferential statistical methodology applied to criminological research. Secondly, due to Sutherland’s legacy on the direction and method of criminological scholarship, the authors find that Sutherland’s ambivalence on the role of personality traits and psychopathy in relation to criminal behavior stymied criminological research for over half a century on the development of a white-collar offender profile(s). Moreover, since Cleckley, sparse empirical scholarship by the behavioral sciences has failed to examine the potential implications of psychopathy’s role as a white-collar offender behavioral risk factor giving rise to misperceptions about this offender class.

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