Forensic Psychology

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Defining Crime

·      Historical – changes over time e.g. domestic violence

·      Legal – as defined by the law

·      Cultural – varies culture to culture e.g. homosexuality


Measuring Crime

·      Official Statistics – crime statistics provided by the police

·      Don’t account for the ‘dark figure of crime’ – unreported or unrecorded crime due to:

o   Embarrassed – domestic violence

o   Crime among criminals

o   Don’t trust police

o   Fear of repercussions

·      Readily available for researchers

·      Allow for before/after studies

·      Allow for inter-group comparisons

Measure effectiveness of preventative measures

·      Farrington and Dowd study – shows statistics are largely based on varying policing methods in different regions


·      Self Report Studies

·      Asking people what crimes they have committed themselves

·      Victim Survey

·      Asking people about what crimes they have been a victim of

·      Account for the dark figure of crime

·      20-25% refuse to participate with the researcher

·      Don’t trust police

·      May be embarrassed – domestic violence

·      Crime among criminals

·      Fear of repercussions

·      Focus on juvenile crimes – cant generalize to adult crimes

·      Based on memory – may remember crimes from the wrong time scale

·      Focused on trivial crimes

·      May lie/exaggerate





Atavistic Theory

·      The criminal is a primitive sub-species, an evolutionary throwback with particular characteristics, which make the person more likely to become a criminal

·      Physical characteristics:

·      Enlarged jaw

·      Dark skin

·      Excessive hair

·      Retreating forehead

·      Criticisms:

·      Deterministic – states we have no free will

·      ‘Selection effect’ – Lombroso chose people that supported his pre existing theory

·      Small unrepresentative samples

·      Many people with these physical characteristics do not become criminals


·      Body Types

·      Endomorphs


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