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Psychological basis for offender profiling.

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Katie McGovern Psychological basis for offender profiling: There are two main branches of psychology which I think perform a basis for offender profiling. The first is social psychology, this deals with the behaviour of groups and the influence of social factors on the individual. These social factors could include the culture at the time e.g, popular films at the time, music, media coverage of a particular story etc. I think this could be a basis for offender profiling because profilers could investigate any possible cause of a murder case. The murder could link to any popular movement at the time, for example a horror film. An example of this would be the Jamie Buldger case, after the toddlers' murder it was discovered that his injuries were similar to acts carried out in a horror film that was later found at the perpetrators home. Understanding social psychology, therefore, could be quite useful when putting together a profile because knowing whether or not a person could be influenced by popular movements will help narrow down the search, particularly if, after examining the victim injuries or events leading up to their death match any films, popular music lyrics etc. ...read more.


The FBI base their offender profiling techniques on a 'top-down' approach. Information was collected after in depth interviews with 36 convicted sexually orientated murderers, and a classification system was developed on the basis of the information. There are two basic characteristics in this classification system: organised criminals (show control at crime scene, careful to cover their tracks, deliberately targeted victim etc.) and disorganised criminals (act in an unplanned haphazard manner, leave more clues etc.) With this classification system the FBI are then able to follow a series of stages which will lead them to a profile of a possible perpetrator, including data assimilation (collection of all available information - photos of crime scene etc.) and crime classification (putting the crime into a particular category). In contrast to this Britain uses a 'bottom-up' approach. This approach is more scientific than that of the FBI, it attempts to formulate psychological theories that will show how and why variations in criminal behaviour occur based on the crime as opposed to solving a crime based on psychological theories already developed. ...read more.


Between 1985-86 three murders occurred, and forensic evidence together with certain aspects of the perpetrator's technique suggested that there were links between the rapes and the murders. David Canter became involved in the case of the 'railway rapist' after reading an article in the newspaper. Along with the detectives working on the case he helped compile a table of all the offences, with answers to questions like what sort of threats were made, what sort of sexual activity took place etc, in an attempt to establish a pattern. A profile was subsequently drawn up which included the following description: lives in the area circumscribed by the first three cases, probably lives with wife/girlfriend, possibly without children, mid to late twenties, right-handed, knowledge of the railway system. When John Duffy was arrested in November 1988 he turned out to live in Kilburn, was separated from his wife, was in his late 20s and was right-handed, he was a travelling carpenter for British Rail. Duffy was initially 1505th in a list of 2000 suspects and the profile enabled prompt action to be taken. From this profile Canter was able to use not only the successes but also the inaccuracies in order to develop further theories about how to develop a profile. ...read more.

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