Traits and states: Integrating personality and affect into a model of criminal decision making

Jean-Louis van Gelder*, Reinout E. De Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

123 Citations (Scopus)


We propose and test a model of criminal decision making that integrates the individual differences perspective with research and theorizing on proximal factors. The individual differences perspective is operationalized using the recent HEXACO personality structure. This structure incorporates the main personality traits, but it carries the advantage of also incorporating Self-Control within its personality sphere, and an additional trait termed Honesty-Humility. Furthermore, the model offers a new perspective on proximal predictors, "states," of criminal decisions by adding affect (i.e., feelings) to the rational choice-crime equation. The proposed model is tested using scenario data from a representative sample of the Dutch population in terms of gender, age, education level, and province (N = 495). As predicted by the model, personality was both directly and indirectly related to criminal decision making. Specifically, the traits Emotionality, Self-Control, and Honesty-Humility were mediated by both affect and rational choice variables. Conscientiousness operated only indirectly on criminal decision making via rational choice. Together, the findings support a trait-state model of criminal decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-671
Number of pages35
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Affect
  • Crime
  • Dual-process models
  • Personality
  • Rational choice
  • Self-control


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