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An introduction to psychological profiling and an empirical assessment of its accuracy in assisting violent crime investigations

Australian Institute of Criminology , Richard N Kocsis
22 July 1999 -

Richard N Kocsis

Unit Chief, Criminal Profiling Research Unit

Introduction

Despite its apparent popularity, psychological profiling has been poorly evaluated as either an investigative aid or a conceptual tool. The objectives and development of psychological profiling are discussed with the different styles of profiling and their distinct conceptual orientations being explained. Final discussion is made on what exact conclusions can be drawn with respect to the validity and utility of profiling.

The investigative technique of Criminal Psychological Profiling has accumulated considerable renown and is increasingly being incorporated into criminal investigations and law enforcement organisations. However, the acceptance and development of Profiling has progressed with a conspicuous lack of empirical examination into the actual accuracy of the technique. Furthermore, no studies have addressed the issue of whether the assistance of the Psychological Profiler does actually out-perform the services of similar forensic consultants or police personnel themselves. A test questionnaire was constructed from a resolved homicide case. Investigative materials prior to the resolution of the case were presented and then followed by a battery of questions requesting a description of the probable offender. Participants to complete this questionnaire included a sample of Profilers, Police Detectives, Psychologists, individuals professing ESP abilities and average citizens. The results indicate that the expertise of Profilers significantly outperform all other groups in overall prediction accuracy. However, the results could not indicate what specific attributes a profiler excels upon in comparison to the other groups. The results also indicate that Police personnel can benefit from instruction in Psychology, but are far better offer relying upon their own acumen than giving any credence to the well intentioned recommendations of Psychics.

Richard Kocsis is the unit chief of the Criminal Profiling Research Unit (CPR unit); an Australian national police research program specialising in the research and development of criminal profiling techniques for the assistance of all Australian law enforcement and fire investigation agencies.

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