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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  • Created by: Kathryn.C
  • Created on: 19-12-11 15:45
Preview of WJEC PY4 - Forensic Psychology: Approaches to Profiling

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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 testimony (e.g. reconstructive memory, face recognition,
attributional biases, the role of emotion).
Treatment and punishment of crime (e.g. cognitive therapies, behavioural therapies and zero tolerance).
Possible Exam Questions:
Discuss/critically consider approaches to profiling.
[25 marks]
Discuss/critically consider processes involved in the decisionmaking of juries.
[25 marks]
Discuss/critically consider theories of crime.
[25 marks]
Discuss/critically consider factors affecting eyewitness testimony.
[25 marks]
Discuss/critically consider the treatment and punishment of crime.
[25 marks]

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Page 2

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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 can be very useful but it is an inefficient method if large numbers of
people have to be tested in order to find a match.…read more

Page 3

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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 to patterns from previous crimes in order to predict if any
more crimes are likely and when and where they might take place.…read more

Page 4

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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 began the 100foot walk toward her apartment house at 8270 Austin Street.
But then she spotted a man standing along her route.…read more

Page 5

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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 this case in particular. But people are also individuals, even if they seem to be `creatures of
habit so the typology might not always be a hundred percent accurate in all cases.
The U.K.…read more

Page 6

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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 representations of the external world and are unique to every individual. Criminals use their
mental maps when planning and carrying out offences so that areas in which offences take place have boundaries.…read more

Page 7

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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 of the crimes). In either case, you would have made a reasonably
accurate prediction.
The researchers found that police officers were as accurate as computer systems after a 10 minute training session.…read more

Page 8

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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 is the starting points of each of these two approaches. The US approach starts with the
most extreme type of criminal whilst the UK approach begins at the crime scene and works based on the
evidence available.…read more

Page 9

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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, 1990).…read more

Page 10

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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 US its not
uncommon for a group of trained agents and psychologists to confer in order to produce general profiles
and templates for different demographic types of individuals.…read more


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