Forensic Psychology Class Overview
- Critical understanding of the core concepts, principles and methods used in forensic psychology
- How to analyse crime, criminals and their victims
- Different types of criminal behaviours that forensic psychologists engage with
- How to develop a criminal profile of offenders
Forensic Psychology Course Content
Diploma in Forensic Psychology
Setting the Scene: What is Forensic Psychology?
This lesson will introduce students to the world of forensic psychology by presenting a real-life scenario of a woman recounting her experience of rape. This case vignette will demonstrate the various roles that a forensic psychologist can fulfil. While the work of forensic psychologists is not limited to the legal system, however, a key focus area of this course will be to explore how the field of Forensic Psychology deals with all aspects of human behaviour as it relates to the law.
Giving Birth to Criminals
This lesson dives deeper into the world of the 'criminal' by questioning our own misperceptions and automatic beliefs of what constitutes a 'criminal', what we think a 'criminal' must look and act like. These misperceptions, beliefs and attitudes of 'criminals' and 'offenders' are largely socialised and then subsequently internalised into our being by our parents and teachers when growing up. While not every person will commit a crime in their lifetime, it is important to consider what stops the majority of people from breaking the law in the first place and perhaps identifying the missing link for criminal.
Investigating Mental Illness and Crime: 1
While having a mental illness does not instantly label an individual as a criminal, research does indicate that a higher proportion of individuals with a personality disorder for instance are at a higher likelihood of getting into trouble with the law than people whose personalities are not thought to be extreme or disordered. This lesson explores the relationship between personality characteristics typical of many criminals.
Investigating Mental Illness and Crime: 2
Lesson 4 furthers our discussion on mental illness and crime by distinguishing personality disorders from psychosis and further questioning the validity of an individual's 'sanity' when engaging in an act of crime. Can these individual's be pardoned for their wrongdoing due to being mentally ill and therefore unfit to face a trial process?
Risk Factors for Offending
Building on from our discussion from lesson 2, this chapter aims to investigate the contribution of forensic neuroscience to the understanding of the etiology (origin) of criminal behaviors. We will examine how the brain develops and the parts of the brain that are said to constitute the social brain. By understanding the structure and function of these areas in the brain, we will then explore what effects these risk factors have on critical areas of the social brain and how specifically problems in these areas may in part lead to offending.
Psychological Theories of Crime
There are many general theories relevant to the study of crime. While it is important to appreciate that crime can be understood from a variety of perspectives, psychological theories of crime deal more with the specific aspects of crime. This lesson focuses on outlining the central tenets of psychological theories of crime, such as Eysnck's (1996) biosocial theory of crime as well as Bandura's (1968, 1973) social learning theory as it applies to the development of crime.
Legal Systems Vary Worldwide
Different jurisdictions have different legal processes and protections to ensure that justice is done. This lesson considers the implications for forensic expertise in civil and criminal proceedings whilst also providing critique towards the role of forensic psychologist experts in court.
Ethical Concerns and Multicultural Issues in Forensic Psychology
As you have seen thus far, the character portrayals of forensic psychologists ignoring the ethical and legal constraints in order to solve a crime is grossly inaccurate. In this lesson, we examine the ethical rules and principles that guide the profession and discuss the clearly defined scope of practice and boundaries of professional practice.
Intermediate in Forensic Psychology
This lesson examines how crime victimisation follows patterns. These patterns cannot be understood solely on the basis of psychological characteristics of the victims and can be better understood in combination with geographic proximity, knowledge of everyday activities of criminals/offenders in the area that they inhabit and visit. As we explore this interface between the perpetrator and victim more, we will move away from Victimology's original focus being on victim's characteristics that increased the likelihood of their victimization and investigate the consequence of such for the 'victim' in the aftermath of an experienced incident.
In forensic psychology, the expert witness can undertake a number of different roles. In various circumstances, the expert may carry out evaluations examining the mental status of a client or complete a personal history review to explore the individual's openness, cognitive abilities, attachment patterns and general capacity for describing his/her life in a coherent, chronological way. This may include assessing individuals in relation to specific court matters or formal hearings. In this chapter, we will begin by outlining who should take instruction as an expert witness, what is expected of an expert witness and how important their role is when a psychological syndrome is applicable to explain a victims/defendants behaviour.
In this lesson, we begin by reviewing some of the shortcomings and consequences of traditional investigative interviews and discuss the Cognitive Interview (CI), which was designed to interview cooperative, primarily adult, witnesses in light of these shortcomings. Conducting an investigative interview is a demanding and difficult task and so to aid in this cuase, researchers have developed several best-practice interviewing techniques which we will review.
Eyewitness evidence is one of teh earliest and most widely studied topics in Forensic Psychology. Today, both police and courts rely on eyewitness evidence. In this lesson, we will focus on how memory works when it comes to rmembering in the eyewitness context. We will discuss the issues of the misinformation effect, difficulties when it comes to cross-racial identification and how age can impact upon eyewitness testimony. We will also examine the various factors and police procedures that can influence how accurate eyewitnesses can be and ways to minimise any form of bias in police line-up identifications.
Sooner or later, most criminal investigations will result in one or several suspects being interviewed. the outcome of the suspect interview is central to any investigation. This lesson contains two parts. The first part being descriptive in nature with respect to discussing what police officers are told to do when interviewing suspects and what happens in reality. The latter part of the lesson is prescriptive and offers a few words on what police officers should and should not do with respect to suspect interviewing and ways to establish rapport during this process.
Psychologists have identified a number of key investigative tasks where psychology is particularly relevant. One of these tasks relates to the collection and evaluation of investigative information - the information obtained by susspects through police interrogations. In this lesson, we will focus on how psychology contributes to these tasks by looking first at how the police interrogate suspects and some possible consequences of their interrogation practices.
How do we know whether someone is telling the truth or lying? As we have seen from lesson 6, the police will attempt to detect whether someone is telling them the truth or not during an interrogation. Psychologists havce participated in the development and testing of a variety of techniques to detect deception. In this lesson, we will explore several issues associated with dception such as the three major types of false confessions and the theoretical explanations for the underlying cause of lying as well as the utility of the strategic use of questioning technique.
The empirical examination of the behavioural differences between liars and truth tellers has been carried out historically by researchers in laboratory settings. The most reliable cues to deception were found to lack strong predictive value. However, a number of verbal and nonverbal behavioural characteristics has been found to be credible with truth telling or lying. In this lesson, we will attempt to identify objective verbal and nonverbal behavioural cues that may indicate lying and further debunk common misconceptions of deceptive behaviour such as being able to detect a killer from a 911 call...
Advanced in Forensic Psychology
Violence 1: Abuse
Physical abuse can be defined as the deliberate application of force to any part of the body that results in or may result in a non-accidental injury. With abuse most often occurring in childhood and persistent through to adulthood, in this lesson we review four categories of child/adult maltreatment being physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect/failure to provide and emotional maltreatment. We will explore what incidence and prevalence rates mean in relation to the statistics on childhood abuse and examine some of the short -term and long-term effects of physical abuse in a child's upbringing.
Violence 2: Interpersonal Violence
Violence against partners in the form of intimate partner or domestic violence has a long history and is still, unfortunately still common. It can include different types of violeence and in different severities. In this lesson, we will explore the various types of interpersonal violence such as physical (e.g. hitting, punching, stabbing, burning), sexual, financial (e.g. restricting access to personal funds, stealing from the victim), and emotional abuse (e.g. verbal attacks, degradation, therats about hurting family members or pets). We will further review the different types of abuse experienced and the prevalence of intimate partner violence and present theories that attempt to explain why some people engage in violence against their partners. In addition, some of the major approaches to treatment will be presented and research on their effectiveness will be reviewed. Finally, research examining the prevalence of stalking and types of stalkers will be summarized. The most common type of stalker is someone who engages in stalking after an intimate relationship breakup.
Sexual Offenders 1: Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is on par with homicide in terms of how perpetrators are vilified by society. Sexual assault and its aftermath is also a major focus of forensic psychology. For example, many forensic psychologists are involved in developing theories to explain why people become sexual offenders. They conduct research to understand the nature of sexual violence and develop procedures to assess and programs to rehabilitate sexual offenders. This lesson discusses the different forms of sexual assault, rapist typologies and possible motives for sexual assault.
Sexual Offending 2: Child Molestation
In this lesson, the focus remains on sexual offending but specifically narrows our attention on shild molestation. With respect to child molesters, the most widely used typology is Groth, Hobson & Gary's (1982) typology of the fixated and regressed child molester. Groth et al. (1982) developed their typology based on research with incarcerated child molesters. in addition to this, an exploration into the cognitive distortions commonly characteristic of sexual offenders will discussed in tandem with child molester typologies.
Cyber-bullying forms part of a broarder discussion on child victims and stalking behaviour through teh internet. This lesson explores how teh unregulated, anonymous and dangerous virtual space of social media can be towards potential child victims. Whether it is online grooming, bullying to sexual assault, we will try to map some of teh characteristics of the type of offender who engages in this behaviour but does not have the intention of getting caught.
Homicide represents the ultimate violent act for the victims obviously, but also for their families, friends, and society more generally. Homicide is also a major area of study within the field of forensic psychology. For many years, forensic psychologists have been trying to understand how people can kill one another and why this lethal form of violence has emerged in our society. This lesson will try to understand the various forms of homicidal violence that exist, ranging from homicides that occur between husband and wife in the “heat of passion” to homicides committed by young children, new mothers, serial killers, and mass murderers.
Forensic psychologists are also involved in the development of treatment programs to rehabilitate violent offenders, including those that have committed homicide, and they sometimes attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs. This lesson builds on lesson 6 and discusses some of the research that has been conducted to understand homicidal offenders and how to effectively manage their violence.
The study of terrorism and the terrorist is essentially a multidisciplinary endeavour, drawing on insights from a range of approaches and perspectives, and in this respect, of course, it is no different from other forensic areas. We will explore this further in this lesson and consider some of the central issues that might characterise our understanding of terrorism and the terrorist from a forensic psychological perspective. It will draw on the idea of process as an organising concept of becoming, remaining and disengaging.
Proficient in Forensic Psychology
Criminal Profile Analysis 1
There are two main branches of offender profiling that are typically carried out. The first, is the FBI-style of profiling used in the USA which will be described in this lesson further, and then there is the more acturial or statistical style of profiling, most commonly attributed to the Behavioural Investigative Advice (BIA). The FBI-style of profiling is based on the work of collecting and gathering information, especially from the scene of the crime. Offender profiling has its utility when there are problems identifying suspects.
Criminal Profile Analysis 2
The actuarial or statistical approach to offender profiling originated in the work of David Canter (2004) which led to investigative psychology. Statistical offender profiling has been applied to a wide variety of crimes beyond those of the initial FBI focus (serial sexual homicides and rape) to arson and property crimes, for example. A somewhat broader term to describe the activities of psychologists working with the police is, in the UK especially, behavioural investigative advice (BIA). This lesson will explore the statistic attempts to identify patterns in different crime charateristics and also give consideration to the geographical factors in the commission of the crimes.
Organised and Disorganised Crime Scenes
Information from the crime scene is used to classify the crime scene into organised (where there is evidence that the crime has been carefully planned) or disorganised (where the crime scene looks chaotic and there is little sign of preparation for the crime. This lesson will examine how an organised crime scene suggests, for example, a sexually competent, charming person who lives with a partner while, a disorganised crime scene is indicative of an offender with low intelligence, unskilled occupation and who lives alone.
Modus Operandi and Crime Signature
As part of the criminal profile analysis and exploration of crime scene characteristics based on different crimes, this lesson will investigate the idiosyncratic nature in which offenders commit the particular crime and try to identify the subtle intricacies of their 'crime signature' by using the famous case of Jack the Ripper as a case study.
Assessment of Risk, Danger and Recidivism 1
Risk and dangerous-ness assessment refers to a variety of methods developed to limit the levels of risk and danger to the public while allowing offenders liberty. This lesson will present risk assessment as not a precise science but a useful exercise to perform in obtaining some useful predictors. It is important to establish that risk assessment is different from risk management. Risk management is the various techniques that minimise the risk to other people – keeping the potential offender in prison is a form of risk management. This is not the focus of this lesson but rather how risk assessment is carried out using psychological measures.
Assessment of Risk, Danger and Recidivism 2
Structured clinical methods have been developed to determine risk, danger and recidivism which involve a degree of clinical judgement but provide a systematic checklist of decisions which need to be taken. this lesson will apply clinical methods of risk assessment such as the Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R) to determine prediction outcomes whilst critically examining judgement and bias errors that can occur when conducting the various assessments.
Interventions to Reduce Re-offending
The rehabilitation of offenders is a multifaceted process involving reentry, and ultimately reintegration, into social networks and the broader society. While offenders need to work hard at modifying their offence-related personal characteristics, the community also has an obligation to buttress this individual work with social supports and resources. This lesson will explore intervention approaches for offenders whilst keeping in mind the utility of risk, need and responsivity principle and overall effectiveness of intervention approach.
Future Directions for Forensic Psychology
Forensic psychcology is a growing and evolving profession. Much of its concern with crime, law enforcement and the legal system is dealing directly with individuals. So, understanding these people's psychology and experiences is an inevitable part of what legal processes have to deal with. In this lesson, you will become acquainted with 10 emerging areas in the field of forensic psychology, explore its current limitations and examine foundational cases in which forensic psychology was crucial.