WJEC A2 Psychology Controversies, Topics and Applications

Model answers on abnormality, crime and relationships 

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Discuss approaches to offender profiling
Offender profiling is a set of empirical data used to compile a picture of the characteristics of those
involved in a crime (Howitt). There is no universal approach to offender profiling as there are
different methods such as crime scene analysis, investigative psychology and geographical profiling.
Crime scene analysis, also known as US offender profiling. This was developed by the Federal Bureau
of Investigation (FBI) and offers a top-down approach to offender profiling that utilizes the
experience and perception of the profiler to interpret evidence from the crime scene and develop a
profile of the likely offender (Woodhead and Porter). This approach was based on a study of 36
convicted sexually orientated murderers e.g. Charles Manson who were given in-depth interviews.
Detailed information was collected from the Behavioural Science Unit and crime scenes were
conducted, and other forensic evidence and information about the victim is also provided. The FBI
was then able to develop `models that would result in the profile of the offender' and produced a
system for classifying several serious crimes e.g. murder and rape.
Murderers were classified as `organised' or `disorganised' depending on information gathered at
the crime scene. Organised murderers are likely to have a high intelligence, be socially competent,
plan murders, use restraints on victims, brings weapon to commit murder and take it away from the
crime scene. On the other hand, disorganised murderers are likely to have a lower intelligence, be
socially incompetent, have little preplanning, use minimal restraints and leave evidence at crime
scenes. When the FBI analyses a crime scene they use this system to determine the characteristics
that the murder might have. This is known as crime scene analysis. This information is then used to
draw up a profile which helps the police to narrow their suspects.
The FBI went on to detail what should happen once a very serious crime has occurred. The first stage
is data assimilation- available data is collected from many sources e.g. photo of the crime scene. The
second stage is crime scene classification- evidence is used to place the crime into a typology. The
third stage is crime reconstruction- hypotheses are developed about what the offender and victim
did and the sequence of events based on a reconstruction of the event. The final stage is profile
generation- profile is developed that includes the offender's age, ethnicity, personality, and
However, the US approach is limited to crimes that only leave significant evidence, and to multiple
crime offences like serial murder, rape, and paedophilia. Although such offences are relatively rare,
they are horrific crimes and the US approach makes valuable contributes to solving them. However it
is difficult to assess effectiveness of profiling as the rarity of serial crimes means there are few
examples on which to base the technique. Moreover, another criticism is the effectiveness of
profiling. Holmes revealed that in 192 cases of profile generation only in 17% of these cases did the
profile contribute to the arrest. However, according to Canter and Heritage approximately 80% of
cases solved were helped by offender profiling. On the other hand, it uses poor methodology as it is
based on a small sample of cases. Opportunity samples of 36 serial murders are unreliable sources.
The classification was based on serial murderers who had been convicted and so might not have
been representative of the entire population of serial murderers. Also the sample was American so it
isn't representative of serial murderers elsewhere. Interviews were not standardised and were
subjected to very little formal scientific interpretation (Oleson and Canter). Finally, the validity of the
organised and disorganised typology has been questioned. Canter et al analysed evidence from 100
murders and found no distinct subsets of characteristics. This basic model has been amended, to a
five-fold classification by Holmes and Holmes. The amended version still reflects the original, at one
end the disorganised `visionary killer' (who is suffering a break from reality); at the other end an
organised `power/control killer' (who derives pleasure from dominating the victim). The other three
being `mission, hedonistic and lust'. However, Canter examined evidence from 100 US serial

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Another approach investigative psychology (UK offender profiling). This began in the mid 1980's,
when Canter proposed an approach to profiling based on research. Canter developed a system of
crime analysis based firmly on psychological principles with both theoretical and methodological
rigour. This is different to crime scene analysis which he regarded as subjective and intuitive. This is a
bottom-up approach as it utilizes psychological theory and research to interpret evidence from the
crime scene and develop a profile (Woodhead and Porter).…read more

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Baron and Byrne suggest that this is due to the
`beautiful is good' stereotype. This is where attractive physical features seem to be associated with
attractive or positive psychological characteristics. Also stereotyping criminals which have physical
unattractive features also has an impact on legal decision making. Sigall and Ostrove support this
claim as they found participants who were shown an attractive photograph of a defendant charged
with burglary recommended almost half the average sentence of those with no photograph or an
unattractive one.…read more

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Also knowing
most people share their views allows members to sound more forceful and convincing which in turn
may convert other people's views. Tanford and Penrod examined mock juries and found a majority
verdict at the first ballot was 95% more likely to achieve a unanimous final verdict. Also Nemeth
found juries are more likely to agree with a majority not guilty verdict than a majority guilty verdict;
thus suggesting another factor.
Minority also influences jury decision.…read more

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During the 1960s a new theory was discovered to why violent crimes were committed. This was the
XYY syndrome that develops when individuals have an extra Y chromosome. It is believed that the
presence of this extra Y chromosome leads to people committing violent crimes. Jacobs et al found
that there are 15 sufferers per 1000 in the prison population, and 1 per 1000 in the general
population; XYY men are over-represented in the prison population.…read more

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The monkeys never formed an attachment and so grew up to be aggressive and had
problems interacting with other monkeys, however this study was conducted using animals so should
not be applied to humans.
A weak superego may also result to criminal behaviour. During the phallic stage of development the
Oedipus complex is resolved by identifying with the same sex parent and internalising their moral
standards.…read more

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Rattner reviewed 205 cases of wrongful arrest and
found in 52% of cases this wrongful arrest was due to an incorrect eyewitness testimony.
Clifford and Hollin showed how the perceived seriousness of crime can impact on the accuracy of a
witness's testimony. They showed participants one of two films of a violent/non-violent interaction
between a man and a woman. They found that the memories of participants shown a violent film clip
were less accurate and less complete than participants who were shown a non-violent film.…read more

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Loftus and Palmer examined the effect of leading questions on witness's responses. They found that
a single verb could influence participant's recall of how fast a car was travelling. Participants were
shown a video clip of a car accident. They were then asked a leading question on how fast the cars
were travelling when they hit, smashed, bumped contacted of collided with each other. The more
impact implied by the verb the greater the speed estimates given by participants: smashed 40.…read more

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The programme showed a significant increase in the
targeted behaviour compared to the group not involved in the programme. Ayllon and Millan also
conducted research that has shown token reinforcement works with adult prisoners. On the other
hand, Ross and Mackay reported deterioration in behaviour when the programme was used with
delinquent girls.
Nevertheless, there are many strengths for the behaviour modification programme.…read more

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This would lead to law abiding
citizens to leave the area and crime rates would escalate. This policy suggests that the downward
spiral of criminal behaviour can be avoided by tackling minor crime at the onset to prevent escalation.
For example, William Bratton dealt with crime using this policy which targeted minor crimes (publics
drinking) with the use of 7,000 extra police officers. In three years the crime rates dropped by 37%
and homicides by over 50%.…read more



Hi, these are a great help. Do you know what marks they are?


I'm not sure, but I got a B in this module. 

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