Profiling serial killers and other violent criminals

I just noticed that the January edition of the Journal of Forensic Sciences is freely available online, which contains psychological case reports on two serial killers and a football hooligan.

The journal is always a fascinating read, as it combines academic papers on everything from molecular analysis to psychological profiling.

The psychology case reports are often more influenced by a Freudian, interpretive style of explanation than in many other areas of psychology.

This is perhaps because the reports are largely from the USA which was historically most influenced by Freudian ideas and still retains a stronger influence in clinical and forensic psychology.

It is possibly also because it’s quite hard to do controlled studies on violent criminals, and so single case studies are more likely to draw on interpretive ideas that were specifically developed to delve into the mind of individuals.

For example, the FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit will partly analyse a crime scene using interpretive methods to link the symbolism of certain actions (e.g. covering a victims face after the murder) with the emotional state of the killer (e.g. shame).

The APA Monitor has an intriguing article on FBI profiling if you want to know more, and if you want some examples of the sorts of thinking that goes into criminal profiling, the case reports in the January edition are a good place to start.

Link to ‘Paths to Destruction: The Lives and Crimes of Two Serial Killers’.
Link to ‘The Hooligan’s Mind’.
Link to ‘Criminal profiling: the reality behind the myth’.

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