Various crimes may be similar to each other by their appearance, but very different reasons could motivate the individuals who commit the same offense. And also, people who commit similar crimes can understand the meaning of their actions differently.
Canter and Young indicated four roles and central themes, which can be recognized in narratives of criminals. There are a victim, hero, professional and taking revenge among the roles and irony, quest, adventure and tragedy among narratives` themes. McAdams identified two main themes of narratives: intimacy and power. Intimacy`s theme is associated with the desire of love, friendship and care, while power`s theme is associated with the desire of leadership, of authority, etc. (Youngs & Canter, 2012).
Criminals with adventure narratives have the high need for power, but the little need for intimacy, that`s why such individuals desire to control others.
Typically, these narratives can be found among the robbers who act coolly and calm, their goal - a financial benefit. Such criminals perceive their misdeeds as an ordinary job. They feel the excitement, interest when performing criminal tasks. They plan a crime beforehand and act rationally, realizing possible risks.
We can see examples of such criminal behavior in different action movies. For example, the main character of the film “The whole nine yards” feels no compassion or mercy toward people he kills in the struggle for big money.
Individuals with a narrative of the victim (the irony) are characterized by low power and high levels of intimacy. They do not control the situation and do not take responsibility for what happens to them; they think that they are unfortunate victims as they were drawn into a bad story against their will.
Individuals characterized by narratives of those who take revenge (Quest) have a high level of power and a high degree of intimacy. They believe that their victims deserve their “fate” They can take revenge for themselves or for significant for them a person. The example of taking-revenge-criminal we can find in the movie “Memento”. The main character of the movie believes that the sense of his life is to find the murder of his wife and to kill him. But during that time while he is looking for the murder he himself becomes a criminal.
"Heroes" tragic narratives have low levels in positions of intimacy and the aspect of power. "Heroes" in their stories may indicate that they carried out the mission. They are also not able to take responsibility for their actions and believe that the events of their lives are fatal, and to be "heroes" is their destiny.
Canter points out that we can understand criminal actions when we analyze one`s “inner narrative,” the story of life. Young and Canter gives in their book example of a 33-years-old man, who killed his small daughter after he found out about his wife`s adultery. This example is the illustration of how criminals can make sense of their action. The man believed he was saving his daughter by killing her. Apparently, this man felt like a victim in this situation. He had a high level of need for love, intimacy and protection. But he acted emotionally, unreasoned, spontaneously, did not control himself and the situation. (Youngs & Canter, 2009).
A criminal who causes harm toward surrounding world can think that he accomplishes some important mission, or he can be sure that those who suffer from his actions deserve it. When a criminal sees himself through such a prism, this gives to his actions and his life special meaning. If the offender is the sense of his criminal actions and his life, it neutralizes his pangs of conscience.
Canter, D., & Youngs, D. (2009). Investigative psychology: Offender profiling and the analysis of criminal action. John Wiley & Sons.
Youngs, D., & Canter, D. V. (2012). Narrative roles in criminal action: An integrative framework for differentiating offenders. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 17(2), 233-249.