Is there a reason why criminals, artists and scientists all become less productive as they age?

The biographies of 280 scientists indicate that the distribution of their age at the time of their greatest scientific contributions in their careers (age–genius curve) is similar to the age distribution of criminals (age–crime curve). The age–genius curves among jazz musicians, painters and authors are also similar to the age–crime curve. Further, marriage has a strong desistance effect on both crime and genius. I argue that this is because both crime and genius stem from men’s evolved psychological mechanism which compels them to be highly competitive in early adulthood but ‘‘turns off’’ when they get married and have children. Fluctuating levels of testosterone, which decreases when men get married and have children, can provide the biochemical microfoundation for this psychological mechanism. If crime and genius have the same underlying cause, then it is unlikely that social control theory (or any other theory specific to criminal behavior) can explain why men commit crimes and why they desist.

Source: “Why productivity fades with age: The crime–genius connection” from Journal of Research in Personality 37 (2003) 257–272

Hat tip: Richard Harper

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