The deviance information criterion (DIC) is widely used for Bayesian model comparison, despite the lack of a clear theoretical foundation. DIC is shown to be an approximation to a penalized loss function based on the deviance, with a penalty derived from a cross-validation argument. This approximation is valid only when the effective number of parameters in the model is much smaller than the number of independent observations. In disease mapping, a typical application of DIC, this assumption does not hold and DIC under-penalizes more complex models. Another deviance-based loss function, derived from the same decision-theoretic framework, is applied to mixture models, which have previously been considered an unsuitable application for DIC.