People with a slower heart rate are 20 percent more likely to be criminals as they desperately seek a stimulating jolt, a new study claims.
Analyzing data on almost 1,000 young people, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a clear correlation between heart rates and crime rates.
Experts claim the research could explain why men – who have a naturally lower resting heart rate – commit more crimes.
They concluded that men – and women with slower-pumping hearts – are biologically tuned to seek out stimulating experiences, and have a lower level of fear.
Analyzing data on almost 1,000 young people, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a clear correlation between heart rates and crime rates – and why that makes men more likely to commit crimes (file image)
While the study builds on previous research looking at heart rate and thrill-seeking, this is the first to relate the theory to gender and crime.
‘We think cardiovascular functioning partly explains sex difference in crime,’ co-lead author Professor Adrian Raine, ‘because low heart rate is a marker for other mechanisms like lack of fear and stimulation-seeking.’
His colleague, Dr Olivia Choy, added: ‘One way to get that stimulation is by engaging in antisocial behavior.
‘Obviously, you can engage in prosocial behavior, say, for example, like skydiving, but another major theory connects low levels of arousal to low heart rate, reflecting a low level of fear in individuals.
‘To commit a crime, you do need a level of fearlessness, so these are two major explanations for why we see this relationship between low heart rate and antisocial behavior.’
Their research showed that a person’s resting heart rate accounted for up to 17 percent of the gender difference in crime.
To test their hypothesis that a low resting heart rate partly mediates the relationship between gender and crime, the researchers examined data from a longitudinal study of 894 participants.
Resting heart rate at 11 years of age was examined alongside self-reported and official conviction records for overall criminal offending, violence, serious violence and drug-related crime at 23 years of age.
A low resting heart rate partially mediated, or explained, the relationship between gender and all types of adult criminal offending, including violent and nonviolent crime.
The mediation effects were significant after controlling for body mass index, race, social adversity and activity level.
Professor Raine’s work builds on previous research in Sweden on the same topic.
In a study of more than 700,000 men, those with the lowest resting heart rate when they were teenagers were 39 per cent more likely to be later convicted of a violent crime than those with the highest pulses.
Reacting to the study in 2015, Professor Raine described the results as ‘exceptional’.
He said: ‘We now have knowledge a person’s lower resting heart rate raises – albeit weakly – the odds of an individual committing future offences beyond his or her control.
‘Can the criminal justice system continue to turn a blind eye to the anatomy of violence?’