Forensic Psychology

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What is crime? An act committed in violation of the law where the consequence of conviction by a court is punishment.
What is considere da crime in one culture may not be judged as such in another. Definitions of crime change over time so some behaviours judged to be criminal may be historically and culturally specific.
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What are official statistics? Figures based on the numbers of crimes that are reported and recorded by the police often used by the government to inform crime prevention strategies.
What are victim surveys? A questionnaire that asks a sample pf people which crimes have been committed against them over a fixed period of time and whether or not they have been reported to the police.
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What is an offender survey? A self report measure that requires people to record the number and types of crime they have committed over a specified period.
Official statistics have been criticised as unreliable as they significantly underestimate the true extent of crime. So many crimes go unreported by victims or unrecorded by police that only 25% of offences are included in official figures.
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The remaining 75% forms the dark figure of crime which is often hidden. Crimes may not appear in the official statistics for many reasons but one of these is police recording rules.
Victim surveys are more likely to include details or crimes that were not reported to the police and so are thought to be more accurate. 2006/7 official statistics suggest a 2% decrease whereas the surveys show a 3% increase.
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The main strength of offender surveys is that they provide insight into how many people are responsible for certain offences. However, offenders may conceal more serious crimes or exaggerate the number.
What is offender profiling? A behavioural and analytical tool that is intended to help investigators accurately predict and profile the characteristics of unknown criminals by studying the crime scene and evidence.
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The top down approach originated in the US. Profilers start with a pre-established typology and work down in order to assign offenders to one of two categories based on witness accounts and evidence from the crime scene.
Types of offenders: organised and disorganised. An organised offender is one who shows evidence of planning, target the victim and tends to be socially and sexually competent with higher than average intelligence.
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A disorganised offender is one who shows little evidence of planning, leaves close and tends to be socially and sexually incompetent with lower than average intelligence.
Four main stages in profiling: data assimilation (profiler reviews evidence), crime scene classification (organised or disorganised), crime reconstruction (hypotheses of events of crime), profile generation (hypotheses related to likely offender).
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It is best suited to crime scenes that reveal important information about the suspect e.g. ****, murder and arson as well as crimes involving sadistic torture, dissection of the body and acting out fantasies.
More common offences like burglary result in crime scenes that reveals very little about the offender and so it is a limited approach in identifying criminals.
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Research analysed data from 100 murders in the USA and the details were examined with reference to 39 characteristics though to be organised or disorganised. The findings suggest evidence of distinct organised type but not a disorganised type.
The behaviours that describe each of the organised and disorganised are not mutually exclusive, a variety of combinations could occur in any given murder scene. This had led to the development of more detailed typological models.
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Other psychologists focus more on the different motivations killers might have rather than trying to determine specific types. The typology approach was developed using interviews with 36 killers in the US. 25 serial killers and 11 single or double.
This has been criticised for being a small and unrepresentative sample to base a typology upon. It is also not valid to rely on self report data with convicted killers when constructing a classification system.
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The British bottom up approach involves profilers working up from evidence collected from the crime scene to develop hypotheses about the likely characteristics, motivations and social background of the offender.
Investigative psychology is a form of bottom up profiling that matches details from the crime scene with statistical analysis of typical offender behaviour patterns based on psychological theory.
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Geographical profiling is a form of bottom up profiling based on the principle that an offender's operational base and possible future offences are revealed by the geographical location of their previous crimes.
Canter's circle theory proposed two models of offender behaviour. The marauder who operates in close proximity to their home base and the commuter who is likely to have travelled a distance away from their home.
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The pattern of offending is likely to form a circle around the usual residence and this becomes more apparent the more offences there are. Spatial consistency. Research collated information from 120 murder cases involving serial killers in the USA.
Spatial consistency in the behaviour of killers. The location of each body disposal site was in a different direction from the previous sites creating a circle. The offender's base was located in the centre of the pattern.
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The effect was more noticeable for offenders who traveled short distances (marauders). Canter argues that the bottom up approach is more objective and scientific as it is more ground in evidence and psychological theory rather than speculation.
With the aid of advanced technology, investigators are able to manipulate geographical, biographical and psychological data quickly to produce insights and results that assist in the investigation.
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The approach can also be used applied to a wide range of offences. Techniques such as smallest space analysis and the principle of spatial consistency can be used in investigation of crimes such as burglary and theft as well as more serious offences.
Locations are important but there are other considerations that need to be made such as the psychological characteristics. Concentrating on location alone would miss important information.
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The atavistic form is a biological explanation for criminal offending entering on the idea that offenders may represent a more primitive evolutionary stage of development. This may be shown in a range of facial and physical features (Lombroso, 1870s)
Lombroso called the distinct features 'atavistic' which he identified using data from measurements of almost 4000 criminals and skulls of 400 dead criminals and found features such as heavy brow, large ears, extra fingers, toes, *******, large jaw.
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This theory suggests criminals are born this way and so it is not their fault as behaviour is determined by physiology. However his research lacked scientific rigour as no females were studied and only Italians criminals were studied.
This means it is beta biased and culturally biased. It is also biologically reductionist as it does not consider other factors. His research did not include a control group for comparison and so it is difficult to make conclusions.
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Additionally, research in 1913 looked at the features and compared 2348 London convicts with a control group and failed to replicate the finding concluding that behaviour is not linked to physical appearance.
The atavistic features may cause criminal behaviour due to poor social interactions as individuals are treated differently due to appearance leading to poor self esteem, anger and frustration. Difficult to separate nature and nurture.
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The theory has also contributed to criminals being stereotyped as looking a certain way and this is unhelpful as it endorses the idea that certain features are associated with criminal behaviour. Causes discrimination.
Genetics explanations for crime suggest that would be offenders inherit a gene or combination of genes that predispose them to commit crimes. Research with 3856 twin pairs found 35% concordance in MZ twins compared to 13% in DZ twins.
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Research reviewing 13 twin studies found 52% concordance in MZ twins compared with 21% for DZ twins suggesting a genetic link.
A genetic analysis of almost 900 offenders revealed abnormalities on two genes, MAOA and CDH13 that may be associated with violent crimes and also found individuals with this high risk combination were 13x more likely to be violent.
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However this research is in its infancy and has not been replicated so far & is therefore behaviour may come about through a combination of genetic predisposition and biological or psychological trigger.
Twin studies typically involve small sample sizes as twins are an unusual sample so may not represent the population. Most twins are raised in the same environment, a confounding variable that makes it difficult to separate nature and nurture.
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A study of over 13,000 Danish adoptees found when neither biological or adoptive parents had convictions, 13.5% of adoptees did. When either biological parents did, this rose up to 20%.
When both biological and adoptive parents did, it rose further to 24.5% supporting the diathesis stress model as both genetic inheritance and environmental influences play a part.
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The separation of genetic and environmental influences in adoption studies is complicated by late adoption which means children may have spent childhood with their biological parents or they may maintain contact with them after adoption as well.
Additionally, the stress of adoption may be the cause of offending behaviour.
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There are three biochemicals implicated in offending behaviour, noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. Noradrenaline is involved in the fight or flight response and helps respond to a threading situation.
High levels of noradrenaline are linked to violence and aggression accounting for some crimes. Serotonin regulates mood and impulse control. Low levels means more impulsivity and a impaired capacity to hold back.
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Dopamine is linked to addiction and substance abuse which makes crime more likely. Dopaminergic activity in the limbic system causes pleasure which makes addiction more likely.
Research found levels of testosterone were positively correlated with aggressiveness and levels of serotonin were negatively correlated with impulsive behaviour and extreme aggression in non-human primates.
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Research on animals cannot be generalised. There are other factors involved in impulse control and violence so it is difficult to make a causal link and individual differences are not taken into account.
Biochemical explanations are more relevant to everyday life as offending behaviour may only occur in some circumstances or it may cause mental illness which causes crime (indirect relationship).
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Biochemical explanations are reductionist as they simplify criminal behaviour. It is likely the issue is far more complex than level of biochemicals in the brain.
Evidence suggests there may be neural differences in the brains of criminals and non criminals. Individuals diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder APD are investigated.
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APD is associated with reduced emotional responses, a lack of empathy for the feelings of others. Research on APD brain found reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that regulates emotional behaviour.
11% reduction in volume of grey matter in prefrontal cortex of people with APD compared to controls.
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The limbic system is a central part of the brain where emotions are modulated. Criminal psychopaths have problems processing emotions and empathy and so have a lack of remote and guilt due to faults in the limbic system.
fMRI scanning during emotion based task in psychopaths compared with non psychopath criminals and non criminals found criminal psychopaths had much less activity in the limbic system and used the frontal lobe to greater degree for planning and contro
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A clear link between abnormal process and crime may not be appropriate, it could be due to brain trauma however not everyone with head injury commits crime so cause and effect is not clear. Individual differences.
Brain functioning issues may be due to abuse in childhood and this has implications for whether the offender is responsible or not as it could be argued it is beyond their control.
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Sample sizes are small and target populations are hard to access. Using scanning techniques are time consuming and expensive. This effects the extent to which results can be generalised.
Eysenck's theory proposed behaviour could be represented along two dimensions, introversion/extraversion (E) and neuroticism/stability (N). The two combine to form a variety of personality characteristics or traits. He later added psychoticism (P).
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All personality types including the criminal personality have an innate biological basis. Extraverts have an under active nervous system which means they constantly seek excitement, stimulation and are likely to engage in risk taking behaviours.
They tend not to condition easily and don't learn from their mistakes. Neurotics tend to be nervous and over anxious and their instability means behaviour is often difficult to predict. Psychoticism is linked to androgens like testosterone.
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The criminal personality is neurotic-extravert and a typical offender will also score highly on measures of psychoticism characterised by cold, unemotional and prone to aggression.
Developed the Eysenck's Personality Inventory (EPI), a psychological test which locates respondents along the ENP dimensions to determine their personality type.
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Personality is also linked to criminal behaviour via socialisation processes. Criminal behaviour is developmentally immature, selfish and concerned with immediate gratification. Impatient and cannot wait for things.
In the process of socialisation children are taught to become more able to delay gratification and become socially orientated. People with high E and N scores have nervous systems that are difficult to condition.
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They therefore do not easily learn to respond to antisocial impulses with anxiety. More likely to act antisocially where the opportunity presents itself.
Eysenck studied 2070 male prisoners scores on EPI compared with 2422 male controls aged 16-69. Prisoners recorded higher scores than control on measures of ENP across all age groups. Large representative sample size. Only used males, beta biased.
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Research into cultural differences: Hispanic and African-American offenders in maximum security prison in NY studied, divided into six groups based on criminal history and nature of offence. All groups found to be less extravert than non criminals.
The theory has implications for the legal system as it suggests personality is inherited. Innate predisposition to committing crime and so questions responsibility of crime.
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The theory is reductionist as there other factors not considered and determinist and not everyone scoring high on ENP would commit crimes.
Kohlbergs theory of moral reasoning suggests people's decisions and judgements on issues of right and wrong are developed in stages. The higher the stage, the more sophisticated the reasoning.
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Many studies show that criminals tend to show lower level of moral reasoning than non criminals. Kohlberg studied a group of violent youths and found they were significantly lower in their moral development than non violent youths.
Criminal offenders classified at pre conventional level whereas non criminals progressed to conventional level and beyond. At the pre conventional level, need to avoid punishment and gain rewards, associated with less mature childlike reasoning.
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Studies have shown that individuals at high levels tend to be more sympathetic with the rights of others and exhibit more conventional behaviours. Cognitive distortion are errors and biases in the information processing system by faulty thinking
It is linked to the way criminals interpret other people's behaviour and justify their own actions. Hostile attribution bias suggests violence is associated with the tendency to misinterpret actions as confrontational.
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Offenders may misread non aggressive cues which may trigger disproportionate, violent responses. May be linked to childhood. Minimalisation is the attempt to downplay or deny the seriousness of an offence.
Research found 26 incarcerated rapists, 54% denied they committed the offence and 40% minimised the harm they caused to the victim. Also found 35% of child molesters argued that the crime was non sexual and 36% stated the victim had consented.
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Research compared moral reasoning between 210 female non offenders, 122 male non offender and 126 convicted offenders to find the delinquent group showed less mature moral reasoning. Large sample size + involved women = high population validity.
Theory led to treatment of criminal behaviour by cognitive behavioural therapy which encourages offenders to face up to what they have done and establish a less distorted view of their actions.
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A reduced incidence of denial and minimalisation in therapy is highly correlated with reduced risk of reoffending. Anger management is also effective. Treatments have implication for economy as less prisoners require less money.
The theory describes the criminal mind but is less successful in explaining it. Useful when predicting reoffending but tends not to give an insight into why the offender committed crime in the first place.
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The differential association theory is an explanation for offending that propose through interaction with other, individuals learn the values, attitudes, techniques and motives for criminal behaviour.
Sutherland developed a set of scientific principles that could explain all types of offending. Conditions which cause crime should be present when crime is presented and absent when crime is absent. Designed to discriminate between criminals and non.
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Offending behaviour is acquired through processes of learning, through interactions with significant others the child associates with eg. family and peer group.
Criminality arises from two factors: 1. learned attitudes towards crime. 2. learning of specific criminal acts.
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A person socialised into a group will be exposed to the values and attitudes towards the law. Some will be pro crime and some will be anti crime.
If the number of pro criminal attitudes the person acquires outweighs the number of anti criminal attitudes, they will go on to offend. It should be possible to mathematically predict how likely it is that individual will offend.
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The offender may also learn particular techniques for committing a crime so it accounts for why so many convicts released from prison go on to reoffend. Inside prison, inmates learn specific techniques from more experienced criminals.
Learning may occur through observational learning and imitation or direct tuition from criminal peers.
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The theory is successful in movie emphasis away from biological accounts of crime and instead draws attention to the fact the dysfunctional social circumstances and environments may be more to blame. Offers more realistic solution to problem.
The theory is seen as too general as it is similar to the SLT but not detail of cognitive processes that might underpin criminal behaviour.
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It is difficult to test as the number of pro criminal attitudes a person has been exposed to is hard to measure. Difficult to know at what point the urge to offend is realised and criminal career is trigger. Lacks scientific credibility.
Not everyone exposed to criminal influences goes on to commit crime. Crime needs to be considered on an individual case by case basis. Danger within theory of stereotyping individuals from impoverished, crime ridden backgrounds. Ignores free will.
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The psychodynamic explanation suggests an inadequate superego is the cause of offending. The superego is formed at the end of the phallic stage by resolving the Oedipus or Electra complex and works on the morality principle.
Exerts its influence by punishing the ego through guilt for wrongdoing and rewarding it with pride for moral behaviour. Blackburn suggests if the superego is deficient or inadequate it leads to criminal behaviour.
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The id is given free reign and is not properly controlled. Three types of superego. 1. Weak superego: same sex parent absent during phallic stage, child cannot internalise fully formed superego.
2. Deviant superego: child internalises immoral or deviant superego. 3. Over harsh superego: healthy superego is forgiving of transgressions
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An overly harsh superego causes excessive guilt and anxiety that may drive an individual to perform criminal acts to satisfy the superego's overwhelming need for punishment.
Maternal deprivation theory by Bowlby suggests the ability to form meaningful relationships in adulthood dependent upon child forming a relationship with mother figure, the maternal bond superior to any other.
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Failure to establish such a bond leads to a child experiencing damaging and irreversible consequences in later life. Development of a particular personality, affection less psychopathy, lack of guilt and empathy.
Such individuals are likely to engage in acts of delinquency and cannot develop close relationships with others. 44 juvenile thieves, 86% of affection less psychopaths experienced maternal deprivation.
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Freudian theory suggests girls develop weaker superego as they don't experience castration anxiety so are under less pressure. More prone to criminal behaviour but this is not supported by male to female ratio of inmates.
There is little evidence that children without same sex parents are less law abiding as adults. Children who are raised by deviant parents and go on to commit crime, could be due to genetics or socialisation than a deviant superego.
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It is unlikely that criminal behaviour reflects an unconscious desire for punishment as most offenders go to great lengths to conceal their crimes suggesting they want to avoid punishment at all costs.
Psychodynamic explanations lack falsifiability as there are many unconscious concepts not open to empirical testing and so it is not useful scientifically. Pseudoscientific. Little contribution to understanding of crime or how to prevent it.
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What is custodial sentencing? A judicial sentence determined by a court where the offender is punished by serving time in prison or some other closed therapeutic and/or educational institution e.g. psychiatric hospital.
Four main reasons: 1. deterrence: unpleasant prison experience designed to put off individuals or society from offending. Prevents individual from reoffending by punishment (conditioning) and sends message to society that crime will not be tolerated.
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2. incapacitation: offender taken out of society to prevent them reoffending and so to protect the public, depending on the severity and nature of crime.
3. retribution: enacting revenge for crime by making offender suffer, level of suffering proportionate to seriousness of crime, based on eye for an eye.
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4. rehabilitation: to reform offenders upon release so they are better adapted to take their place in society by providing opportunities to develop skills, training, treatment programmes for drug addiction etc.
Psychological effects: stress and depression leads to higher suicide rates in prison and higher rates of self harm. The stress of prison experience increases risk of psychological disturbances following release.
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Institutionalisation: prisoners become adapted to norms and routines of prison life and so are no longer able to function outside.
Prisonisation: prisoners socialised into adapting inmate code and behaviour considered unacceptable is encouraged and rewarded.
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Recidivism refers to reoffending. 2013, 57% of UK offenders likely to reoffend within a year of release. In 2007, 14 prisons in England and Wales had over 70% reoffending rates.
UK and US have some of the highest rates of reoffending. Norway has the lowest reoffending rates which are half than UK, may be due to greater emphasis on rehabilitation and skill developed, labelled as soft option and it doesn't punish sufficiently.
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For many offenders the prison experience is brutal, demeaning and devastating. Last 20 years, 15x higher suicide among offenders than general population. 2015, 25% women and 15% experienced symptoms of psychosis in prison.
Seems to be triggered by oppressive prison regime suggesting it is ineffective in rehabilitation especially of individuals who are psychologically vulnerable.
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There are individual differences as not all offenders will react in the same way to prison experience and different prisons have different regimes. They may have pre existing psychological difficulties at they time they were convicted.
Offenders may become better people during their time in prison. Improved character, able to lead a crime free life in society. Many prisoners access education and training in prison increasing employment rates upon release.
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Treatment programmes and social skills training may give offenders insight into their behaviour, reducing likelihood of recidivism. However, many prisons lack the resources to provide these programmes and no evidence of long term benefits.
Behaviour modification: all behaviour is learned so it can be unlearned by behaviour modification, reinforcing obedient behaviour and punishing disobedience via token economy system.
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Desirable behaviour (avoiding conflict, following rules etc) is reinforced with a token that can be exchanged for a reward (phone call to a loved one, time in yard, extra cigarettes or food).
Disobedience may result in tokens/privileges being withheld or removed. Research introduced token economy in groups of young delinquents and found a significant difference in positive behaviour compared to non token economy group.
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Token economy systems are easily implemented, no need for expertise, can be done by anyone and so is cost effective and easy to follow. Depends on consistent approach from staff. Research found any benefits lost after inconsistent approach from staff
It has little rehabilitative value, any positive changes in behaviour may be lost when released. It is at its best when establishing appropriate conduct within prison, unlikely to extend beyond prison setting. Law abiding behaviour not reinforced out
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Terms and conditions of behaviour modification regarded as manipulative and dehumanising. Participation is obligatory for all offenders not optional. May involve withdraw of privileges such as exercise and contact with loved ones. Ethics.
Anger management is a form of CBT that involves identifying signs that trigger anger as well as learning techniques to calm down and deal with the situation in a positive way. Aim not to prevent anger but to recognise and manage it.
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Three stages: 1. cognitive preparation: requires offender to reflect on past experience and consider typical pattern of anger. Identify situations that act as a trigger and irrational thoughts.
2. skill acquisition: introduced to a range of techniques to help them deal with anger provoking situations more rationally and effectively. Cognitive: positive self talk to encourage calmness. Behavioural: training in how to communicate effectively.
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Physiological: methods of relaxation and or meditation. 3. application practice: given opportunity to practice skills within carefully monitored environment, role play between offender and therapist using scenarios that may cause anger.
If it successful, positive reinforcement from therapist. Research into young offenders progress between 17-21 found final outcomes to be positive despite initial issues of course not being taken seriously.
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Offenders reported increased awareness of anger management difficulties and increased capacity to exercise self control.
Works on a number of different levels, cognitive preparation, behavioural techniques of self management, social approach in role play = multidisciplinary approach, holistic. Acknowledges offending is complex activity.
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Tries to tackle the cause of offending rather than focusing on superficial surface behaviour as in behaviour modification. Attempts to address though processes underlying behaviour.
May give offenders new insight into cause of criminality enabling them to self discover ways of managing themselves outside prison setting, permanent behavioural change and lower rates of recidivism.
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Research has found anger management to have a noticeable effect in short term but little evidence it reduces reoffending in long term. May be because role play doesn't reflect real life situation.
Expensive, requires highly trained specialists used to dealing with violent offenders and many prisons may not have the resources to fund such programmes, success is based on the commitment of offenders, may be a problem if they uncooperative.
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Restorative justice focuses on rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victim. It enables them to see the impact of their crime and serves to empower victims by giving them a voice.
Changes emphasis from needs of state to enforce law and punish to needs to individual victim to come to terms with crime move on, victims are encouraged to take an active role while offenders are required to take responsibility for their actions.
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A supervised meeting is organised between the two parties and is attended by a trained mediator. Victim is given opportunity to confront offender and explain how incident made them feel and offender able to see consequences, rehabilitation.
Focuses of acceptance of responsibility, less emphasis on punishment. Not restricted to courtrooms. Active involvements of all parties in process. Focus on positive outcomes for both parties.
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Not always face to face, offender may make financial compensation to victim or may repair damaged property themselves. Flexible and alternative to prison, add on to community service, may lead to reduction of existing sentence.
Restorative Justice Council RJC is a body that establishes clear standards for the use of restorative justice and to support victims and professions. Advocated use of practice in preventing and managing conflict in many areas. e.g schools, workplaces
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Degree of flexibility in the way in which programme can be administered, covers a wide range of application. Scheme can be adapted and tailored to need of individual situations. Difficulties in drawing general conclusions about effectiveness.
Success depends on extent to which offender feels remorse. Some offenders may sign up to avoid prison or for reduced sentence rather than genuine willingness to make amends. Victim may also have revenge motive, may not lead to positive outcomes.
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Research found for every £1 spent on restorative justice, £8 saved by criminal justice system through reducing reoffending. However, meetings may be emotionally charged requiring the input of a skilled experienced individual as a mediator.
Specialists are likely to be expensive. Scheme has high dropout rates as offender or victim may back out prior to meeting. Not always cost effective.
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Card 2


What are official statistics? Figures based on the numbers of crimes that are reported and recorded by the police often used by the government to inform crime prevention strategies.


What are victim surveys? A questionnaire that asks a sample pf people which crimes have been committed against them over a fixed period of time and whether or not they have been reported to the police.

Card 3


What is an offender survey? A self report measure that requires people to record the number and types of crime they have committed over a specified period.


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Card 4


The remaining 75% forms the dark figure of crime which is often hidden. Crimes may not appear in the official statistics for many reasons but one of these is police recording rules.


Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5


The main strength of offender surveys is that they provide insight into how many people are responsible for certain offences. However, offenders may conceal more serious crimes or exaggerate the number.


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