Thursday, September 8, 2016

James C. Oleson's "Criminal Genius"

James C. Oleson is Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Auckland.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Criminal Genius: A Portrait of High-IQ Offenders, and reported the following:
Flipping open Criminal Genius: A Portrait of High-IQ Offenders to page 99 presents the reader with a table - Table 14, to be precise - and 2/3 of a page of descriptive text about the relationship between sex, IQ, and crime. Studying Table 14 for a moment reveals that, unexpectedly, a greater percentage of people in the high-IQ group reported self-reported offenses than did those in the medium- or low-IQ group, and that these high-IQ offenders also self-reported greater numbers of offenses than those in the other IQ bands.

From this page, an attentive reader can quickly divine a few facts about the book: (1) there are a lot of tables - only 99 pages in, and we're already at Table 14; (2) the book is empirical, presenting results from a self-report study of 465 people with genius-level IQ scores and a control group of 756 people with average iQ scores, about the prevalence (percentage of the groups reporting an offense), incidence (number of offenses committed), and recency (number of offenses committed in the previous year) for 72 crimes; (3) the book is interested in the associations between IQ and other variables.

Page 99 is reasonably representative. The book starts with a user-friendly introduction, detailing our fascination with the criminal genius. There are photos of Leopold and Loeb, the Unabomber, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Hannibal Lecter, and Walter White. Chapter one attempts to impose order on a sprawling literature about genius, IQ, and crime. Chapter two describes the study, detailing the 72 crimes that were measured, and describing the composition of the samples. Chapter three - including page 99 - describes the participants in the study. Chapter four describes their offenses in some detail, categorizing them (i.e., violence, sex, drugs, property, white-collar, professional misconduct, vehicular, justice system, and miscellaneous) and recounts an interview I conducted with a serial killer. Chapter five examines prosecution and punishment, asking if the criminal genius should be punished less, the same, or more than other people. Chapter six uses interview data to suggest explanations for high-IQ crime, and chapter seven lays out key findings, my discussion, and a conclusion. I hope that readers find the subject to be as interesting as I do.
Learn more about Criminal Genius at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue