Defining Crime

  • crime is any act, or lack of an act, that violates the law of a country
  • it is harmful to an individual, a group or society
  • offender is punished by the state (court)

Defining Crime

  • social norms, time and culture are considered when defining crime
    • socially dynamic construct
  • some behaviours are universally regarded as unacceptable
  • some countries factor in passion and honour for crimes such as murder

Problems With Defining Crime

  • cultural issues
    • polygamy is illegal in the UK, but multiple wives is necessary elsewhere
  • historical issues
    • homosexuality has been legal since 1967 in the UK, but is illegal in many other places
    • smacking children became illegal in the UK in 2004 under the Children's Act
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Measuring Crime

Official Statistics

  • government records of the total number of crimes reported to the police
  • recorded in official figures, published by the Home Office on an annual basis
  • snapshot in the number of crimes across the country or in specific regions
  • develop prevention strategies and policing initiatives via directing resources

Victim Surveys

  • recordings of people's experience of crime over a specific period
  • The Crime Survey of England and Wales via the Office of National Statistics
  • document of 50,000 households, randomly selected to report crimes they've been victim to
  • individual surveey for 10-15 year olds made in 2009

Offender Surveys

  • criminals volunteer details of the number and types of crimes they have commited
  • identify target groups and risk factors (indicators for repeat offenders)
  • The Offender Crime and Justice Survey
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Defining and Measuring Crime Evaluation


  • random sampling of households
  • confidentiality is ensured
  • surveys allow for greater details of crimes, than official statistics


  • witnesses do not always recognise a crime to report it
    • Walker: only 42% of crimes are reported
  • those without a postal code are not included
  • only 75% of those contacted take part (random sampling becomes volunteer sampling)
  • some criminals may overexaggerate crimes, or hide them from fear of being prosecuted
  • victims can only report 5 crimes a year - other crimes will not go to the official statistics
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Top-Down Approach

The American/FBI Approach

  • Top-Down (typology) began in the US, from FBI Behavioural Science investigations
  • based on 36 interviews with sexually motivated serial killers to identify indicators
  • creates a pre-existing template of a profile for later comparison via crime-scene analysis

Offender Profiling

  • police investigative tool for solving crimes
  • narrow the field of inquiry and generate a hypothesis of probable characteristics/suspects
  • based on careful analysis of evidence

Classification: Organised vs. Disorganised Offenders

  • signature behaviours which correlate to specific social/psychological characteristics
  • Organised = planning, targeting, socially/sexually competent, higher than average IQ, high degree of control, few clues, skilled/professional occupation, often married +/ children 
  • Disorganised = little planning/targeting, little control, leaves clues, socially/sexually incompetent, lower than average IQ, sexually dysfunctional/failed relationships, unemployed, live alone near scene of crime


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Top-Down Approach

Constructing an FBI Profile: 4 Main Stages

1. data assimilation - profiler reviews evidence
2. crime scene classification - organised/disorganised
3. crime scene reconstruction - hypothesis of timeline and behaviours
4. profile generation - hypothesis of a likely offender based on demographic   ..............................................background/characteristics

Ressler's Top-Down Approach: Extra Stages

  • (1.) profiling inputs: background info and evidence
  • (1./3.) decision process models: mass/spree/serial, time, location
  • (2.) crime assessment: organised vs. disorganised
  • (4.) criminal profile: hypothesis of offender's background, habits, beliefs
  • (5.) investigate report: people matching the hypothesis are evaluated
  • (5.) apprehension: suspect caught and process is reviewed for conclusion validity
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Top-Down Approach Evaluation


  • Copson: questionnaire of 184 police - 82% said it was useful, 90% said they'd use it again
  • application to success of crime solving - it is the standard approach


  • based on outdated models that can be prejudiced
  • crime may be due to external factors, not just dispositional factors
  • classification is too simple, as a highly intelligent person may commit a spontaneous murder
  • does not apply to smaller crimes that leave very little evidence used for profiling
  • Canter: reviewed 100 murderer's cases and comparing them to 39 traits associated with dis/organisation - organised exists but found no evidence for disorganised 
  • despite it being used as a standard procedure, it doen not make it good for all situations, as crimes are all unique - it is just the procedure that is enforced
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Bottom-Up Approach

  • systematic, statistical analysis of evidence at the crime scene (British Approach)

Investigative Psychology

  • patterns occuring across several crime scenes, if suspected to be linked, can be used to make inferences and generate a profile of the likely offender
  • develop a statistical database of evidence to use as a baseline for comparison
    • interpersonal coherence: there may be consistency between the crime and their everyday behaviour (e.g a sexual offender may have an public disrespect for women)
    • significance of time and place: how they relate to an offender
    • forensic awareness: mindfulness of control over the crime

Geographical Profiling

  • locations of similar crimes to make inferences about offender profile and their future targets
  • offenders tend to commit crimes in areas around where they live or work
  • Canter's Circle Theory for Crime Mapping for offender behaviour
    • Marauders: create a circle of crimes around their place of residence
    • Commuters: create a circle of crimes in a place away from their place of residence
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Bottom-Up Approach Evaluation


  • more scientific because it uses statistical analysis of objective data
  • application to successful solving of crimes - it is the standard approach in Britain
  • Circle Theory can help predict where next crime will be (possibly prevent it)


  • in cities, offenders' ranges are less circular due to transport links
  • data doesn't include offender's unreported/unsolved crimes (circles may be coincidental)
  • Kocsis: chemistry students produced a more accurate offender profile on a solved murder case than experienced senior detectives
  • Copson: surveyed 48 police officers and found that 83% of profiler advice was 'useful' but only 3% lead to the solving of the case
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Biological Explanation: Atavistic Form


  • criminals are a savage, primative, biologically different sub-species ('genetic throwbacks')
  • they are unable to adapt to social demands, and so channel their behaviour through crime

Lombroso Research

  • assessed Italian convicts' facial and cranial features
  • 40% had atavistic form


  • general: dark skin, facial asymmetry, prominent jaw, extra toes/fingers/*******; insensitivity to pain, uses criminal slang, tattoos, unemployed
  • murderers: bloodshot eyes, curly hair, long ears
  • frausters: thin lips
  • sexual deviants: glinting eyes, swollen lips, projecting ears
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Atavistic Form Evaluation


  • first approach towards crime that used biological/evolutionary basis (scientific credibility)


  • racist undertones towards African descendants (severely/embarassingly outdated)
  • many killers are psychopaths/sociopaths who blend into society (are highly intelligent, not primative)
  • Lombroso's original stance was far too deterministic, as physical traits do not cause criminality, and can be due to environmental factors (even he later agreed)
  • Lombroso's research had no control, is not externally supported and was a biased sample
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Biological Explanation: Genes

Twin Studies

  • Lange: 10/13 monozygotics had both gone to prison
    • 2/17 dizygotics had both gone to prison
  • Christensen: concordance of 33% (monozygotic) vs. 12% (dizygotic)

Candidate Genes

  • Tiihonen: looked at 900 Finnish offenders' genes
    • MAOA gene mutation causes dopamine/serotonin regulation disruption
    • CDH13 gene mutation is linked with substance abuse and ADD
    • mutations meant a 13x increased likelihood of violent history

Diathesis-Stress Model

  • genes create vulnerability to criminality, but do not directly cause it
  • exposure to specific environments and criminal role models
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Genes Evaluation


  • concordance rates are never 100% - must be other factors
  • twin studies are small and do not account for confounding variables, which include how siilarly twins are treated
  • early twin studies are based on looks, not genetics (not 100% sure)
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Biological Explanation: Neural

  • dysfunctions of the brain and nervous system

Antisocial Personality Disorder (Psychopathy)

  • (criminals tend to have) reduced emotional responses and empathy

Prefrontal Cortex

  • APDs have reduced activity in emotial-behaviour regulation
  • Raine: found an average of 11% reduction in grey matter in the PFC

Mirror Neurons

  • criminals with APD can experience non-automatic empathy
  • empathy is usually permanently turned on in normal brains
  • Keysers asked criminals to empathise with a person in pain
    • mirror neurons activated, triggering a kind of empathy
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Neural Evaluation


  • scientific credibility of biology and brain scans
  • application to treatment for those with abnromal serotonin/dopamine regulation


  • reductionist
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Psychological Explanation: Eysenck's Theory

Socialisation Processes

  • criminals are selfish, impatient, need instant gratification

Eysenck's Dimensions

  • Extroversion (- Introversion) = outgoing, positive, seek more arousal -> risk
  • Neuroticism (- stability) = overreact to threats, emotionally
  • Psychoticism (- normality) = aggressive, impulsive, lacking empathy

Eysenck's Personality Inventory (EPI)

  • scoring high on all basis = psychotic, neurotic-extrovert = criminal personality

Eysenck's Research

  • 2000 prisoners, 2000 controls
  • prisoners scored higher on Personality Inventory, against controls
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Eysenck's Theory Evaluation


  • neurotics are too anxious to commit crimes for fear of being caught
  • under-explains biology and environmental factors
  • personality is too complex to measure by a yes/no questionnaire, and changes based on the situation
  • self-report techniques for criminals may lead to Social Desirability Bias
  • 3 dimensions are not comprehensive enough - Dignam's Five Factor Model includes more traits)
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Psychological Explanation: Cognitions


  • theory of moral reasoning in terms of development levels
  • Preconventional Level: rules are obeyed for personal gain/no punishment (criminals, children)
  • Conventional Level: rules obeyed for approval/social order (normal adults)
  • Post-Conventional Level: rules obeyed for personal ethics (10% of adults)


  • rewards are greater thank risks (low level = egocentric, poorer perception...)

Cognitive Distortions

  • hostile attribution bias = misinterpretation of others' emotions
  • minimalisation = downplay severity of crime
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Cognitions Evaluation


  • application to CBT to help offenders overcome preconventional level
  • Dodge and Frame: more aggressive children perceived ambiguous as hostile
  • Pollok and Hashmall: over 35% of child molesters said that "victims consented"/ "it was not sexual"


  • describes criminal mind, but does not explain it (how it is formed)
  • level of reasoning may change depending on the crime (biased for likelihood of success)
  • reductionist - does not explain biology or environmental factors
  • minimalisation may be due to aiming for a lesser sentence, not actually believing it was not serious
  • criminals like to take pride in their crimes - not downplay them
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Psychological Explanation: Differential Associatio


  • scientific principles to discriminate between criminals and non-criminals
  • criminality/conformity is learned via the Social Learning Theory (association and interaction)


  • should be able to mathmatically predict outcome based on exposure frequency
  • learning attitudes towards crime (from peers)
  • learning from specific criminal acts (from observation)


  • would-be offenders learn motives, values, techniques and rewards
  • identification with a criminal/conformist group
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Differential Association Theory Evaluation


  • explains how and why people offend, and why they would reoffend if put in a prison
  • environmental determination
  • Farringdon - 41% of deprived children with risk factors went on to be convicted


  • correlation, not causation - individual differences (different strength of effect of SLT)
  • lack of explanation for the role of video games
  • difficult to test scientifically (can not be operationalised and extraneous variables can not be controlled)
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Psychological Explanation: Psychodynamics


  • unconscious conflicts and personality drive future (tripartite)
  • weak superego due to not overcoming Oedipus and Electra Complexes


  • weak superego: absent same-sex parent -> phallic fixation -> never fully develop morality principle 
  • overharsh superego: strict parent -> guilt/anxiety -> punishment = familiar 'release'
  • deviant superego: criminal parent = identify and internalise morals


  • prolonged separations between mum and child during critical period, leading to emotional consequences
  • leads to affectionless psychopathy -> don't develop close relationships
  • 44 thieves study
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Psychodynamics Evaluation


  • application to psychoanalysis to identify issues to prevent reoffending


  • gender bias - theory does not match up with male:female statistics (females have less pressure on them to identify with their mothers than boys with their fathers - should develop a weaker super ego)
  • Bowlby's theory and research could be privation, not deprivation (self-report)
  • correlation, not causation -> could be due to biology, socialisation...
  • unconscious concepts are untestable (pseudoscientific)
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Dealing with Offending: Custodial Sentencing

  • judicial sentence is determined by a court
  • confined to either a prison or other close instutution


  • Deterrence - unpleasant prison experience
    • condition through punishment
    • general (societal) deterrence and individual (offender) deterrence
  • Retribution - society enacts revenge on offender
    • proportionate to their crime
  • Incapacitation - taken out of society to prevent reoffending
    • protect the public
  • Rehabilitation - help the offender to reform 
    • learn skills to allow adjustment into society
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Dealing with Offending: Custodial Sentencing

Psychological Effects

  • stress and depression - higher statistics for self-harm/suicide that the general public
    • even after release
  • institutionalisation - adopt norms and routines of prison
    • no longer function outside of prison
  • prisonisation - socialised into adopting an inmate code
    • certain behaviour is rewarded in prison
    • this same benhaviour is unacceptable outside of prison


  • repeat reoffending is a problem in the UK and USA
  • Ministry of Justice (England and Wales) reports: 57% of offenders in UK reoffended (2013)
    • 14 prisons had reoffender rate of 70%
  • rates are much higher than in Norway
  • Norwegian prisons are very different from the ones in UK/USA (critisied for being 'too soft')
  • focus more on reform (e.g community service) - costing the taxpayer less money
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Custodial Sentencing Evaluation


  • Prison Trust Reform - 25% females and 15% males reported symptoms of psychosis as a result of custodial sentencing


  • effectiveness and psychological harm may vary by case (locus of control), instituation type and staff
  • prison life can be preferable to homelessness - disrupts the 'reliable' statistics of reoffening (and not very good at deterrence/retribution)
  • prison population is rising - clearly not effective
  • better types of reform (as demonstrated by Norwegian prisons) - such as community service
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Dealing with Offending: Behaviour Modification

  • application of behaviourist approach as one scheme of many of a custodial sentence

Behaviourist Principle

  • behaviour can be learned, so it shoud be possible to unlearn it via conditioning (counter-conditioning)

Token Economy

  • reward obedience with tokens that can be exchanged for priveleges (positive reinforcement)
  • withhold tokens for disobedience (punishment)
  • rewards are primary reinforcers, tokens are secondary reinforcers

Changing Behaviour

  • behaviours are identified (and broken down) - baseline established
  • all in the institution (including staff) follow the same rules
  • monitored by prison officials
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Behaviour Modification Evaluation


  • Hobbs and Holt - introduced token economy to 3 groups (and a control group) of youth offenders and found an increased in positive behaviour
  • easy to implement (no need for specialistsm, cost effective, easy to follow)
  • any one prisoner can receive rewards - treated equally with good behaviour - promotes positivity instead of direct punishment (negativity)


  • ethical issues: manipulates and dehumanises prisoners (rewards them with things that are arguably a right to have) and is obligatory
  • a passive approach - it does not force the offender to reflect on their crime
  • Blackburn - little rehabilitative value, as it does not prevent reoffending after release (and reinforces that prison is not that bad)
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Dealing with Offending: Anger Management


  • suggested cognitive factors trigger emotional arousal (channeled through agressive acts)


  • Cognitive Preparation - reflect on experiences/patterns to break automatic response
  • Skill Organisation - cognitive, behavioural and physiological mechanisms to control anger
  • Application Practice - role play with mediator in a controlled environment
    • requires commitment (belief) from the offender
    • requires bravery from the mediator


  • Keen - young offenders (17-21) undertook National Anger Management Package
    • 8 2-hour sessions of anger management
    • resulted in increased self-awareness and self-control capacity
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Anger Management Evaluation


  • can be continued outside of prison - it is a long-term solution
  • multi-disciplinary approach (techniques, application, break-down), as offending is a very complex socio-psychological activity - more comprehensive
    • better than Behaviour Modification, as it finds the cause of the anger, instead of just conditioning against it


  • self-report technique of prisoners may cause social desirability bias, and role play may not be believable
  • expensive to the taxpayer and needs the commitment of a trained specialist
  • correlation that anger causes crime, not causation
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Dealing with Offending: Restorative Justice Progra

  • alterative to punishment
  • mediator helps to restore a healthy society via remorse of an offender


  • acceptance of responsibility (see the impact and distress caused by their crime)
  • flexible (where it can happen, who can take part, what can be discussed)
  • active process (both parties can share and learn frim discussion for rehabilitation)
  • positive outcomes - empowers victims and reduces recidivism


  • face-to-face discussion, financial resolution, repairing physical damage, community service

Restorative Justice Council (RJC)

  • set the standards for RJP
  • support victims and specialists
  • help with initiatives in schools and communities for Restorative Justice
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Restorative Justice Programme Evaluation


  • allows victim to be part of the process and resolve their feelings
  • much less expensive than other methods (does not require specialists)
  • provides long-term prevention and/or action for the victim
  • Sherman and Strang - did meta-analysis on RJP
    • significantly lowered recidivism and post-trauma


  • may do more damage to victim, especially if the offender is not remorseful
  • soft option - victims usually want redemption, not for the offender to forgive themselves
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