WJEC PY4 - Forensic Psychology: Approaches to Profiling

Revision notes for the topic Approaches to Profiling as part of the PY4 section of A2 Psychology WJEC style.

This is actually a copy of the notes provided to me by my teacher, with my own answers in response. For the most part everything I know to be on the PY4 exam is covered in this and I'll continue to put the other sections of Forensic Psychology up as they're completed in my class.

I hope this is of great use to people who are doing the WJEC course and I wish them all the best in the PY4 exam.


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Psychology Unit 4
Question 10: Forensic Psychology

Syllabus Requirement:

Approaches to profiling (e.g. the US `Topdown' approach, the British `Bottomup' approach, and
geographical profiling).

Decisionmaking of juries (e.g. minority influence, majority influence and characteristics of the defendant).

Theories of crime (biological, social and psychological).

Factors affecting the accuracy of eyewitness…

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What is offender profiling?

The purpose of a police investigation is to collect evidence from a crime scene in order to reach some conclusions
about the person or people who might have committed the crime. This evidence might include fingerprints, fibres
from clothes and blood. DNA evidence…

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The U.S. `Top-Down' Approach to Profiling

Offender profiling was originally developed by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) who set up their
Behavioural Science Unit in the 1970s and eventually developed the set of profiling techniques known as crime
scene analysis.

Basic idea: Evidence from the crime scene is compared…

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Read the following account of a murder.
It was just after three a.m. A red Fiat rolled slowly through the darkness into a parking space adjacent to
the Long Island Rail Road station in Kew Gardens. The young woman behind the wheel emerged from the
car and locked it. She…

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Moseley was obviously an `organised offender, having planned his crime and also targeting a stranger. He
was married and socially competent. His `profile (upbringing, personality, life style etc) fitted with the
profile of an `organised offender which then suggests that having an initial frame to work with was
beneficial for…

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(Can be considered part of the U.K. `BottomUp' Approach)

One way of understanding the geographical patterns of offending is to consider spatial consistency, the idea that
serial offenders operate in a limited area. Spatial consistency is based on the idea of mental maps. Mental maps
are people's internal…

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Diagram 1. Location of Crimes

You probably used one of two simple cognitive strategies. You might have used the `equidistant heuristic' (you
predicted that the offender lives roughly in the centre of all the crimes) or the `cluster heuristic' (you predicted
that the offender lives close to the majority…

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could potentially lead an investigation in the wrong direction. In the Yorkshire Ripper case, a profile of the
behaviour and forensic evidence could have pointed police in a general direction of a lorry driver or a
business man whose job requires him to travel for extended distances.

So the difference…

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Some surveys have tried to establish the usefulness of profiling. In 1981, the FBI used profiles in 192 cases but
the profile was of direct help in only 17% of cases (Holmes, 1989). More recently, the FBI has claimed an 80%
success rate in developing accurate profiles (Canter and Heritage,…

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There were a wide range of responses to the questionnaire. Some were positive and some were negative. Why
might this be the case in the UK more than in the USA?

In the US, profiling is more integrated into the investigative system than it is in the UK. In the…


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