OCR Psychology A2 - Foresnsic Psychology


Turning To Crime


To introduce some of the influences that psychologists have used to explain criminal behaviour

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Disrupted Families - Farrington

Aims: To track the start/duration/end of offending behaviour from childhood to adulthood in families. To investigate the influence on criminal and antisocial behaviour of life events, risk factors, protective factors and Intergenerational transmission.

  • Sample: 411 working class males from six schools in London. Mostly White.
  • ProcedureLongitudinal study,Self-report, Participants interviewed over 24 years


  • 40% = convicted of a criminal offence. Worst offenders came from large multiproblem families. 
  • 7% were chronic offenders: They were all convicted before and after the age of 21
  • –Compared to those with no convictions they were more likely to: Have a convicted parent, Be High daring, Have a Young mother, Have a Low popularity or Have a Large family size etc. The Proportion of men leading successful lives increased with age.

Conclusions: Offenders tend to be deviant in many areas of their lives. The most important risk factors for criminality in the family are, Poverty, Impulsiveness, Poor upbringing & Poor performance in school. Early intervention programmes for the under 10s could significantly reduce criminal behaviour.

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Learning from others - Sutherland

  • Sutherland's research looked at how criminals learned behaviour; not why
  • This looks at how criminals learn and adopt values and morals (such as apathy towards certain laws, risk taking and non-conformity) and techniques (lock-picking is cited as an example) from other criminals. 
  • Sutherland came up with 9 principles
  • A common aspect of these 9 principals are that we learn criminal behaviour in the same way that we learn any other behaviour, (social influences, conditioning, etc.) and that criminal behaviour is not innate or pathological. 
  • Person becomes deliquent due to excess of definitions favourable to violation of the law
  • Differential associations may vary in frequency, duration and intensity
  • We learn to become a criminal the same way we learn anything else
  • What we consider normative, behaviour is learnt from others
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Poverty and disadvantaged neighbourhoods - Wilksrt

Aim: To what extent does poverty and social disadvantaged neighbourhoods contribute to criminal behaviour. 


  • 44% of males & 30% of females have committed at least one studied crime.
  • 10% of males & 4% of females have committed a serious crime.


  • The most important factor was not poverty or social disadvantaged but individual characteristics of the students e.g. their level of self control and morality.


  • This study contracts with Farrington's at which people turn to crime due to social reasons.
  • Sample wasn't representative of the general population as only year 10 students were used.
  • Interviews used therefore this means that there is a high chance of bias and social desirability.
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Turning To Crime


To introduce some of the influences that psychologists have used to explain criminal behaviour

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Criminal Thinking Patterns - Yochelson & Samenow

Aim: To investigate whether thinking patterns existing between criminals


  • Interviewed by two Doctors (Yochelson & Samenow).
  • Longitudinal study.
  • 255 males, from various backgrounds.
  • Found guilty but labelled insane and admitted to secure mental hospital.

Results: They argued that criminals think differently from non-criminals, in particular their cognitions are:

  • Lacked empathy and Loved excitement (highly-daring)
  • Felt no obligation to others.


  • 52 thinking patterns were found in the criminal personality. These were considered to be 'errors' in thinking.
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Moral Development & Crime - Kohlberg

The main assumption is that criminals do not possess a high level of moral development.


  • Kolberg argued that there are 3 main levels of moral development, there are two stages within each level.
  • Younger children inevitably are at a pre-moral stage (level1/2).
  • Older children are at stages 3 and 4.

Conclusion: There does seem to be support across cultures for the stage theory. 


  • Evidence shows that individuals may posses criminal behaviour.
  • Not representative as only boys were used and of a young age.
  • Longitudinal study therefore a lot of information could be acquired over a long-period of time.
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Social Cognition - Gudjohnsson

Refers to the way our thoughts are influenced by the people we mix with, but also, to look at it the other way around, how we can understand social phenomena by looking at an individual's cognitions.


  • Most guilty felt after sexual offences and that these individuals were more likely to make internal attribution.
  • Those who had committed violent acts against the person were equally as likely to make internal or external attributions for their behaviour.
  • Property offenders felt the least guilt and male slightly more mental element or internal attributions than external ones.

Conclusion: There is a strong consistency in the way offenders attribute blame for their crimes.


  • Not representative of the general population as only offenders from Northern Ireland used
  • Social desirability also comes into question as we are dealing with prisoners.
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Turning To Crime


To introduce some of the influences that psychologists have used to explain criminal behaviour

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Brain Dysfunction - Raine

Method: Review article was carried out looking at brain-imaging studies and reporting, how they relate to antisocial behaviour in children.


  • Low resting heart rate is an indicator of someone who will seek risk and excitement and be more antisocial.
  • Birth complications, poor parenting and physical abuse all lead to aggressive behaviour in children.

Conclusion: Raine concludes that by early intervention it could be an effective way of preventing antisocial behaviour.


  • Low in validity due to the use of brain scans.
  • High in reliability as a review article can be carried out by anyone,
  • However some factors such as poor parenting are hard to operationalise therefore this could question the results.
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Genes and serotonin - Brunner

Aims of the Study: a case study on a family from the Netherlands where males were affected by a syndrome of borderline mental retardation and abnormal violent behaviour. These included impulsive aggression, arson, attempted **** and exhibitionism.

Procedure: 5 affected males studied. Data collected from analysis of urine samples over 24 hours

Results: Test showed disturbed mono-amine metabolism associated with a deficit of the enzyme (MAOA). In each of the 5 males a point mutation was identified in the X chromosome of the gene.

Conclusion: MAOA is involved in serotonin metabolism. Brunner concluded that the MAOA deficiency in the family was associated with a recognisable behaviour phenotype that accounted for their inability to regulate their aggression.


  • Not all the males in the family were affected even when suffering from mental retardation therefore it could be said that there could be other causes of the aggressive behaviour.
  • It’s an extremely rare condition and hard to generalise and hard to come to the conclusion that this actually is responsible for criminal behaviour.
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Gender - Daly & Wilson

Aim: To find out if homicide rates would vary as a function of local life expectancy.

Procedure: Correlational study using survey data from police records, school records and local demographic records. Local area average life expectancies, ranging from 54.3-77.4 were compared to homicide rates in those areas.


  • Males show more risk-taking behaviour to attract the attention of females.
  • Competition between other males.
  • Males live their lives with a 'short-time horizon'.
  • They seek instant gratification due to the expectation of living shorter time due to their risky behaviour.


  • Cause and effect cannot be established due to the use of a correlation study.
  • Female homicide rates weren't examined therefore it could be argued that the study isn’t representative.
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Making A Case

Interviewing witnesses

How psychology can inform the investigative process

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Recognising Faces - Bruce

Aim: To investigate which is more recognisable internal or external features.

Method: Three laboratory experiments.

Participants Experiment 1:30 staff/students from Stirling uni paid £2 to sort the composites, 15 m/f (mean age 29.2). Experiment 2: 48 undergraduates at Stirling uni, 21 males 27 females.

Procedure Experiment 1: Participants asked to match 40 composite images, made with E-FIT to 10 celebrity photos. Three sets used - whole face/just internal features/just external features. Experiment 2: Participants shown a photo line up of celebrities then shown the composites one at at time. The participants had to pick the celebrity face that matched the composite shown. Only internal/external features were used.

Results Experiment 1: Matched external features and whole faces correctly 35% of the time and only 19.5% of the time with internal features. Experiment 2: Images of external features (42%) were identified more easily than internal features (24%) and this was consistent across difficult easy types.

Conclusions Internal features (good) better with external features/whole faces suggesting that even with recognisable faces like celebrities it is hard to reconstruct internal features.

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Factors influencing identification - Loftus

Aim: To provide support for the 'weapon focus' effect when witnessing a crime.

Participants: 36 students at Washington Uni, aged 18-31. Recruited through advertisment,given $3.50 or extra credit in psychology class. (lab)


  • Control: Participants shown slides of a queue in a Taco Bell restaurant. Person B hands the cashier a cheque. 
  • Experimental: shown same slides as the control but person B pulls gun instead. 
  • Participants asked to fill out a multichoice, 20 item, questionnaire and to pick person B out 12 head to shoulder photos; rate confidencein their choice;scale of 1-6.

Results: Questionnaire results showed no difference across conditions. Control participants chose correctly 38.9% of the time whereas weapon condition chose correctly 11.1% of the time. There was no difference in confidence of the participants across the conditions and eye fixation data showed an average of 3.72 on the gun and 2.44 on the cheque.

Conclusion:Participants spent longer looking at the weapon therefore had more difficulty identifiying the suspect.The influence may be greater in reality when a witness would be more aroused.

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The Cognitive interview - Fisher

Aim To test the cognitive interview (CI) in the field.

Method Field experiment with actual interviews of real witnesses by serving police detectives.

Participants16 detectives with minimum 5 years in the robbery division of Dade county.

ProcedurePhase 1: Detectives were asked to record their interviews using their regular techniques. 88 interviews were collected. Phase 2: Detectives were divided into 2 groups, one was trained in CI techniques during 4 1 hour sessions. 7 detectives completed the training and were used in the results. More interviews recorded then analysed by a team at California University who were blind to the conditions.

 The CI trained detectives collected 47% more info than before and 63% percent more than the untrained detectives. No difference in accuracy across conditions and CI took longer.

Conclusion Strong support was gathered for CI as more information was collected with no loss of accuracy and only a little time increase.

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Making A Case

Interviewing suspects

How psychology can inform the investigative process

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Detecting Lies - Mann

Aim: To test police officers ability to detect lies when interviewing suspects.
Method: Field experiment.

Participants: 99 Kent police officers, 24 females, 75 males, mean age 34.3. Among them were 78 detectives, 8 trainers, 4 traffic officers and 9 uniformed response officers.

Procedure: Participants were asked to judge the truthfulness of people in real life police interviews. The participants were shown 54 clips of 14 suspects and had to fill in a questionnaire about their experience in detecting lies. After each clip they had to indicate whether they thought the suspect was lying or not, how confident they were in their answer and what cues they used to detect the lie.

Results: There wasn't a significant difference between lie and truth accuracy but both were significantly above chance. Also the more experience an officer had the greater the lie and truth accuracy. The most frequently mentioned cues were gaze, movements, vagueness, contradictions in stories and fidgeting.

Conclusion:The levels of accuracy in this study would have been highly supported in a control group of lay people was used but lay people cannot be shown sensitive material. The more experience an officer has the better they are at detecting lies. Good lie detectors rely more on story cues than body language.

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Interrogation Techniques - Inbau

Nine steps of interrogation:

1. Direct confrontation - the suspect is told they are thought to be the offender
2. The suspect is given the opportunity to shift the blame from themselves. Interrogator should show sympathy to make admitance of guilt easier.
3. Suspect should never be allowed to deny guilt interrupt any denials of guilt.
4. Ignore any reasons as to why they ciould not have commited the crime.
5. Reinforce sincerity by keeping close, keeping good eye contact and using first names.
6. When the suspect eventually becomes quiter move towards alternatives, if they cry infer guilt.
7. Pose the 'alternative question' both choices admit guilt but one is more socially acceptable than the other.
8. Get the suspect to admit guilt in front of witnesses.
9. Document their confession and get them to sign it to avoid them retracting it later.

Inbau thought the use of this technique was justified because it was used on people who were deemed suspects through their preliminary interview but it has been found that using this technique on young or mentally impaired people can lead to false confessions.

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False Confessions - Gudjohnsson

  • Aim: To document the false confession of a youth who was under pressure and distress.
  • Method: Case study
  • Subject: A 17 year old youth (FC) accused of two murders. He was of average intelligence and wasn't obviously abnormal in any way.

Background: In 1987 two elderly women were found having been sexually assaulted then beaten to death and robbed of their savings. A few days later FC was arrested due to some inconsistencies is his account of where he was that night and the fact he'd been spending more than usual. There was no forensic evidence to link him to the offense. He was denied a solicitor and later confessed after a lengthy interview with the police. The next day in repeated his confession in front of a solicitor then wrote a statement condemning himself to jail. After a year another person pleaded guilty to the crimes and FC was released.
The police interviews: FC's first interview lasted for nearly 14 hours with breaks and he was questioned by officers. After many leading questions and suggestions that he was sexually impotent and bad with women he confessed. He retracted his statement the next only to confess again under the same pressure. There were 3 further interviews.

Psychiatric examination: He showed no sign of mental illness had an IQ of 94 but was highly suggestible and he came out of a personality test and a stable extrovert.

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Making A Case

Creating A Profile

How psychology can inform the investigative process

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Top-down Typology - Canter

  • Aim: To test the reliability of organised/disorganised typologies.
  • Method: A content analysis using the psychometric method of multi-dimensional scaling was applied to 11 cases to find out if the features thought to belong to each typology would be consistently and distinctively different. The cases came from published accounts of serial killers collected an independent researcher. The third crime in each case was analysed and the crime classification manual was used to determine whether the crime was organised or disorganised.


  • Twice as many disorganised as organised crime scene actions were identified.
  • Two behaviours occurred in the organised crime significantly above chance, sexual activity (75%) and hiding the body (70%).
  • Only sex acts occured in more than two thirds of disorganised cases.
  • Organised variables appeared central in the scattered plot, with disorganised variables spread widely around them.
  • Conclusion: Canter concludes that rather than there being two distinct types of serial killer all the cases were going to have an element of organisation as none of the killers analysed were caught after 3 killings. A better way would be to look at the individual differences of the offenders.
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Bottom up approaches - Canter and Heritage

Aim: To identify a behaviour pattern from similarities between offences.

Method: A content analysis of 66 sexual offences from various police forces committed by 27 offenders was conducted to find 33 offence variables that were clearly linked to a potential behaviour characteristic.

Analysis: The data was subjected to a smallest-space analysis.

Results: Central behaviours included, vaginal intercourse, no reaction with the victim, impersonal language, surprise attack and victims clothes were disturbed. Less central behaviours included, attempted intimacy with the victim, sexual behaviour, overt violence and aggression, impersonal interaction and criminal behaviour and intent.

Conclusion: These 5 factors have been shown to contribute to all sexual offences but in different patterns for different individuals which can lead to understanding how an offenders behaviour changes over time or whether two or more offences were committed by the same person. This has become known as the 5-factor theory.

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Case Study - John Duffy

  • Nov 2000, John Duffy serving life for **** and murder of several women
  • 25 offences between 1975-86 including 22 attacks on 23 women 
  • Aged 15-32 with an accomplice, David Mulcahy. 
  • Women targeted at railway stations in and around London.
  • Canter's Preliminary Profile: possibly arrested sometime after 1983. 
  • Residence lived in the areas circumscribed by first 3 cases since 1983, probbaly lived there at time of arrest, probably lives with wife or girlfriend, no children. Age mid to late 20's, light hair, 5ft9, right handed. Occupation semi-skilled or skilled involving weekends and casual labour from July 1984 onwards, job most likely does not bring him into contact with public. Character keeps himself to himself, little contact with women, knowledge of railway system where attacks happen. Sexual activity variety of sexual actions suggests considerable sexual experience. Criminal record probably arrested sometime between October 1982 and January 1984, may have had nothing to do with **** but being aggressive or under influence.
  • This profile represents the first attempt to use behavioural characteristics to search for a criminal instead of purely forensic evidence from the crime scene. Victims may have experienced 'weapons effect' as knife was used to control them
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Reaching A Verdict

Persuading a jury

How psychology can inform behaviour in the courtroom

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Effect of order of testimony -Pennington & Hastie

Aim: to investigate whether or not story evidence summaries are true cases of the final verdict decisions and the extent to which story order affects confidence in those decisions

Method: Lab experiment, second of two reported in this paper

Sample: 130 students from Northwestern Uni and Chicago Uni, paid for participation, hour-long experiment. Allocated to 1/4 conditions- roughly equal nos.

Procedure: listened to tape of stimulus trial, responded to written Q's, told to reach verdict on murder charge, rate confidence of decision on 5-point scale, 39 prosecution items and 39 defenceitems in story order, 39 prosecution items and 39 defence items in witness order. 

Results: Story order persuaded more jurors of guilt. Defence items in witness order more jurors found guilty; defence-story order, guilty rate drops 31%. greatest confidence expressed by those who heard prosecution or defence in story order.

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Expert Witness Persuasion - Cutler

Background: Expert psychologist are often called upon to give their expert opinion as it may aid the jurors in reaching their verdict. Sometimes these experts can cast doubt upon an Eye Witness Testimony.

Aim: Does psychological evidence from expert witnesses, casting doubt upon an EWT, affect a juror's decision making?

  • Participants: 538 undergraduates given an extra psychology course credit. 
  • Methodology: Lab experiment, videod mock trail, independent measures. 

Procedure: Independent variables: witness identifying conditions (poor or good), witness confidence (80 or 100%), form of testimony (qualitative or quantitative based), expert opinion (on a scale of 0-25). The jurors were given a questionnaire asking their verdict, testing their memory and rating their confidence levels.

Results: More guilty verdicts were reached with good WIC, stronger expert opinions and with the 100% confidence.

Conclusions: Expert testimony improves juror's knowledge and therefore may help prevent miscarriages of justice

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Inadmissible Evidence - Pickel

Background: The relevance of evidence must outweigh its potential for prejudice. 

Aim: Effect of prior convictions, role of judge's instructions followed by legal explanation, to examine credibility of witness affecting jurors' ability to ignore inadmissible evidence. 

  • Participants: 236 Bali State University psychology students randomly assigned to conditions. 
  • Methodology: Lab experiment, independent measures, mock trial.
  • Procedure: Mock trial of a fictional theft. Critical evidence introduced 'by mistake' by the witness, objected by the attorney, allowed or overruled by the judge and then followed by a legal explanation or not. The jurors had to listen to the mock trial, decide their verdict, the probable guilt of the defendant and the extent to which knowledge of the prior conviction affected their judgement. 

Results: With no legal explanation the inadmissible evidence was ignored, however with the legal explanation it could not be ignored. 

Conclusions: Calling attention to inadmissible evidence makes the jurors pay more attention to it and it therefore has a back-fire effect. 

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these are great! do you have some for health and clinical too? :)

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