The theory is not merely antagonistic to notions of individual pathology as causing crime; it is also, to its credit, critical of any notion that the motives behind crime are mere rationalizations of unconscious processes or smoke-screens for deeply hidden biological drives.
Motives are not inner, biological mainsprings of action but linguistic constructs which organize acts in particular situations the use of which can be examined empirically. The theory argued that the actor inflicts these motives to commit crime at their own will. However, this is untrue considering that not always people are motivated and act immediately. In addition, the duration which these motives last also matters.
In complex industrial societies, there are said to be diverse conflicting norms all involving their own particular organization, orientated towards different ends and utilizing alternative means. Differential association seeks to understand how criminal behavior is transmitted and the likelihood of the criminal or non-criminal behavior of individuals’ occurring. However, empirical evidence has shown that certain kinds of criminal behavior are incomprehensible in terms of differential association theory rather in causes of the crime s seem to differ with different societies.