Criminal genius: How we know what little we know about high-IQ crime Event as iCalendar

(School of Social Sciences)

08 April 2016

3 - 4pm

Venue: Room 104, Fale Pasifika Complex (273-104)

Contact info: Dr Barry Milne

Contact email:

Website: COMPASS

Associate Professor James Oleson, University of Auckland

Intelligence is said to be the most studied human faculty, and within criminology, below-average intelligence (operationalised as IQ) is a well-established correlate of delinquency and crime. Nevertheless, even though the association between low IQ and crime has been studied for nearly a century, little is known about offenders with high IQ scores.

A handful of studies have examined bright delinquents; virtually no criminological research has been conducted with gifted adults. This is an elusive population. The current research describes the self-reported offending of 465 high-IQ individuals (mean IQ=148.7) and 756 controls (mean IQ=115.4) across 72 different offences (ranging in seriousness from abuse of work privileges to homicide).

This presentation will focus on the design and implementation of the study and the analytical work performed by COMPASS. It will also describe some key findings, such as the unexpected discovery that high-IQ respondents reported higher prevalence and incidence rates than did controls.  

James Oleson is an Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Auckland. After a stint in the US Navy’s nuclear propulsion programme, he earned his BA in psychology and anthropology from St. Mary’s College of California, his MPhil and PhD in criminology from the University of Cambridge, and his JD from the University of California, Berkeley. He taught criminology and sociology at Old Dominion University until he was selected as one of the four U.S. Supreme Court Fellows for the 2004-05 year. At the end of his fellowship, he was appointed as Chief Counsel to the newly-formed Criminal Law Policy Staff of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, and served in that capacity between 2005 and 2010. Since arriving at the University of Auckland in 2010, he has taught in the areas of psychological criminology, sentencing, and penology. In 2013, he used his sabbatical to study prison museums across Europe and the United States, and is working on a book about prisons in popular culture. His monograph on high-IQ offenders, Criminal Genius: A Portrait of High-IQ Offenders, will be published in late 2016 by the University of California Press.

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