Inside the mind of an arsonist

Rebecca Doley, an Australian doctoral student has been studying the forensic psychology of recurrent arson. Particularly, she’s been interested in being able to ‘profile’ or identify common behaviours or experiences that are distinctive of people who set fires.

Forest Fire

Profiling usually hits the headlines when applied to murderers or sex offenders and is often used to narrow the number of suspects in a criminal investigation.

It is also used to look at ‘risk factors’ in certain sorts of criminal behaviour, to allow policy makers and community leaders to make social changes to reduce the risk of criminal behaviour in the community.

Doley has found that serial arsonists often have a sense of excitement or pleasure seeing the damage done by their fires, although their background is not necessarilly very different from the troubled histories of other persistent criminals.

If you’re interested in profiling, forensic science or forensic psychology, it’s often worth checking your local adult education college who often run short courses or talks on these topics.

Link to write-up of Doley’s research via ABC Southwest.
Audio of streamed interview with Doley in Real Audio format.

One Comment

  1. chasebase
    Posted January 14, 2005 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    A recently published novel, “After the Deluge” by Chris Carlsson explores postmodern, post-property society from the perspective of an arsonist. I have only read the first few chapters, but it seems right on to what this researcher mentions.
    Free download at

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