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A Study Of Psychological Aspect In Crime

What picture is painted in your when you see the term "psychology in crime"? Movies and TV shows have shaped our minds in such a way that, whenever we see or hear this phase, our minds take to something related to serial killers and people with very barbaric and unempathetic mindsets. Now, this is exactly what you're going to read in this article! Before diving deep into the ocean of criminal minds and how psychology is used by them, let's first know what psychology means.

Starting from the serial killer Ted Bundy to the Nithari killer, Surinder Koli, every serial killer uses some level or aspect of psychology in their killings and murder sprees. And one can use that psychology itself in understanding the minds of these killers.

Each year, vast sums of public funds are spent on the courts, police, probation services, and prisons, but the human costs in terms of anguish, terror, and loss are unquantifiable.

Psychology and Crime examine the critical significance of psychological theories and strategies in comprehending and managing criminal behaviour in depth. It delves into how psychological results are applied to a variety of major crimes, including arson, violent crime, and sexual crime. It looks at how the police and courts employ psychology, as well as the role psychology plays in crime prevention measures.

What Is Psychology?

Psychology is described as a science that examines a person's state of mind to predict human behaviour.[1] The study of both the conscious and the unconscious mind is taken into consideration in psychology. In short, psychology is all about the study of human minds and their effects on human behaviour.

Psychology is also important in police work. Forensic psychologists or criminal anthropologists assist in the identification of suspects by analysing a crime scene, conducting psychological investigations, and other behavioural sciences. These specialists are frequently used by law enforcement agencies to get inside the mind of a suspect by assessing the suspect's likely personality type, lifestyle habits, and peculiarities.

Psychology has been useful in the legal field since it aids in evaluating the men's rea of a criminal while committing the crime, the reliability of witnesses, and the appropriate penalty for a person committing an offence by taking into account the person's psychological state of mind. To some extent, psychology has begun to identify a criminal as a person suffering from a mental disease, implying that such people should be treated medically rather than punished. Deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill is one of the key changes in psychology, as is a better understanding of the treatments and causes of mental diseases.

What Is Crime?

A crime is an act committed or neglected in violation of public laws, according to the law. It is also known as a criminal offence. It is made up of two components. Actus Reus and Mens Rea.[2]

Crime can be defined as an act that violates people's rights and has an impact on society as a whole by motivating or influencing psychopaths and sociopaths, as well as creating a climate of fear and distrust in society.

There are mainly three acceptable theories that define crime according to psychology, and they are the following:
  1. Consensus view
    According to this viewpoint, because change is inherent, how can a crime remain consistent in the face of societal change? In a nutshell, crime evolves in parallel with societal change.

    An example could be that, in medieval days, child marriage was not considered a crime but in the present society it is.
  2. Conflict view
    This viewpoint is completely contradictory to that of the consensus view. Here, society is viewed as a collection of diverse elements, and as a result of their differences, conflicts arise between them, which in turn encourages crime.
  3. Interactionist view
    This is a viewpoint that is halfway between the consensus and conflict viewpoint. According to this viewpoint, there is no such thing as a moral right or wrong; rather, changes in moral standards have an impact on legal standards.

What Is Criminal Psychology?

Now, let us see what criminal psychology means. Criminal psychology is the study of a criminal's thoughts, intentions, behaviours, or responses to evaluate and draw a pattern that will help police or other law enforcement agencies in investigating crimes or assisting a court during proceedings.[3] A Criminal psychologist is a person who practices in the field of criminal psychology. The main aim of criminal psychology is to help in determining what makes a person commit a crime as well as his/her reaction during and/or the crime.

Criminal psychology offers insight into the mind of a criminal. It even affects how the law is implemented. Criminal psychologists are usually called witnesses in court to assist the jury in comprehending the minds of criminals. Psychology can also be useful in addressing criminal behaviour. Forensic psychologists and mental health specialists are frequently enlisted to assist in the clinical evaluation of criminals' mental states.

History Of Criminal Psychology

The year 1879 marks the beginning of psychology as a scientific discipline. Since then, psychology has evolved significantly, with various subfields such as criminal psychology emerging. Many psychologists have contributed to the development of criminal psychology by conducting experiments.

The origins of criminal psychology can be dated back to the nineteenth century. As a result, it is a relatively new science within the field of psychology that is continually evolving. People in various countries are now beginning to recognise the importance of criminal psychology. Criminal psychology is still in its infancy in India.

Scope Of Criminal Psychology

In today's world, crime has become a necessary component of society without which we cannot conceive a society devoid of crime. As a result, the government faces a difficult task in making its citizens feel safe and secure by preventing crime and criminals in society. Is it possible for them to do so just by enacting additional criminal laws or by punishing all criminals more severely?

The answer is no since if you want to get rid of anything, you must first learn everything there is to know about it. To eliminate crime and criminals from society, we must first understand what causes them.

Criminals can be classified into two groups, according to psychology. For example, Psychopaths and Sociopaths. Psychopaths are individuals who are born with a high criminal tendency. Sociopaths are people who are not born with high criminal tendencies, but who pick a path that leads them to crime due to extrinsic reasons such as emotional imbalance, economic troubles, and family issues.[4]

With the help of four basic roles, one can figure out the scope of criminal psychology. The roles are the following:
  1. Clinical role
    According to this role, the experts perform this function by assessing a person who has committed a crime or has been proclaimed an accused by the courts. These tests can be used to establish whether or not a person is competent to testify in court.
  2. Experimental role
    Experts in this area undertake research to assist judges and juries in making decisions in cases by questioning eyewitness credibility and providing observations.
  3. Actuarial role
    Experts in this capacity use data such as the probability of an event and also question an individual's chances of reoffending.
  4. Advisory role
    In this position, a criminal psychologist provides recommendations to police in the course of an investigation. It also aids judges in comprehending the criminal behaviour or psyche of the accused, allowing them to render accurate justice.

A Serial Killer's Psychological Analysis

A serial killer is someone who murders three or more people, usually for abnormal psychological enjoyment, for more than a month and with a large gap between them.
Serial killing is defined as "a sequence of two or more killings, perpetrated as discrete occurrences, usually, but not always, by one perpetrator acting alone," according to the FBI.[5]
When a serial killer kills his first victim, he triggers a cyclical mechanism, which sends him into a complex mental loop, similar to an addiction, that urges him to kill again.

The murder is transformed into the transposition of one or more mental pictures into a real-world setting, and the dynamic process is destined to repeat itself with certain ritual aspects. The imagination is one of the most important aspects of the human psyche, allowing him to alter reality, substitute something, reflect on the past, and foresee the future. Adults and toddlers alike use this technique to gain and keep control over imagined circumstances. Any feeling, such as rage, begins to acquire shape through imagination, focused on a specific aim and direction. Children seek refuge in imagination as they grow up, and project what they have learnt or experienced as a method of relating to others, depending on the home setting in which they grow up.

The youngster will develop a personal imagined universe in which they will transfer the antagonism and hatred they have encountered in the real world. In their dreams, everybody can consider themselves to be vast and limitless. The key distinction between a criminal and a normal person is that the former feels he has a divine right to indulge his desires without regard for moral or legal constraints, while the latter does not.

As he/she begins to imagine deeds to be performed to display power over another human being, the serial killer's imagination plays a crucial part. The power to make life-or-death decisions gives one a sense of omnipotence. When his delusional imagination reaches a pinnacle, it's time to revel in his murderous deeds until a fresh emotional need or compulsion drives him to kill once more. The victim is treated like a checkers pawn by the serial killer, who can use him or her at any time in to win the game.

These people cope with their social isolation by withdrawing into their fantasy world, which is governed by their imagination. Every serial killer starts his destructive path with fantasies, regardless of the cause of the murders.

Thought Process And Actions Of Serial Killers:

It was possible to recognise a serial killer's mental pattern and behaviours, which are separated into five phases that are repeated in a circular process, based on several studies conducted in this field.
  1. Distorted thinking phase
    It's a psychological stage that all serial killers go through. The person is unable to adequately appraise the impact of deviant conduct because he ignores the repercussions and is more concerned with the emotional fulfilment that his acts can provide.
  2. Motivational phase
    Because of the shift to this stage, a single incident or series of events, real or imagined. The stimulus is seen as personal, and the subject's distorted mentality creates an exaggerated response to events.
  3. Inner negative answer phase
    At this point, the murderer must deal with emotions of inadequacy, especially if he is surrounded by negative signals from society.
  4. External negative response phase
    This factor aids the subject in confirming his superiority. The prospective consequences of his illicit conduct are of no interest to him.
  5. Restoration phase
    This phase re-establishes the subject's balance from the start of the process. In addition, the killer considers ways to reduce personal dangers in future murders.

Ordinary people often ponder the nature of serial killers' mysterious and vile acts. It's critical to understand where a serial killer came from. Due to brain system impairments involving a low level of frustration tolerance, some people have a biological predisposition to violence. Stress and environmental traumas are added to the dynamic brain structure. Only the serial killer's criminal activities, which he had previously dreamt about and which inspired him to conduct his first murder, remain in the actual world.

He would rather withdraw into a hidden world of dreams that satisfies him. The killer is ready to begin the destructive cycle and become a serial killer after committing the crime. He selects the victim and, following the murder, enjoys a period of relative peace during which he elaborates and relives the murder he has just perpetrated in his imagination, until, once again, imagination is insufficient, and he feels the need to kill.

Now, let us see some examples of real-life serial killers.
  1. The Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez
    The Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez is a native of El Paso, Texas. Ramirez had a troubled childhood, receiving harsh beatings from his father. He was found guilty of murdering 13 people in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Both serial killers Ottis Toole and Henry Lee Lucas, who is suspected of killing hundreds of people, were abused physically and psychologically. They were forced to dress up as little girls and were then beaten.[6]
  2. Jeffrey Dahmer
    Jeffrey Dahmer was on the lookout for the ideal fantasy lover: someone who was attractive, submissive, and immortal. He experimented with drugs, booze, and exotic sex as his desire grew. The dismemberment of victims, whose skulls and genitals he saved, and attempts to construct a "living zombie" under his control indicated his rising desire for excitement (by pouring acid into a hole drilled into the victim's skull). Control and passion in hand in hand. From the moment it happened the first time, it appeared as though it had complete control over my life. The assassination was merely a means to an aim. He experimented with cannibalism to "ensure his victims will always be a part of him."

  3. The Nithari Case, Mohinder Singh Pandher and Surendra Kohli
    Mohinder Singh Pandher, 53, and his servant Surendra Kohli, 36, were arrested in Noida in December 2006. The duo murdered 38 children over two years, dismembering their bodies and dumping them in drains in and around his bungalow. According to CBI sources, investigators removed a skeleton from the drains and performed an autopsy on more than 40 bags of human bones.[7]
  4. Ted Bundy
    The first broadcast murder trial, Ted Bundy, seemed to be the most unlikely of serial killers. That made his ten-year, multi-state murdering spree was all the more surprising´┐Żand enticing to some. Bundy was raised believing that his grandmother was his mother, even though he was born to an unwed, young woman (and his mother was his sister). He began his homicidal spree in Seattle in 1966, killing his first victim. Bundy conducted a string of murders around the Pacific Northwest, focusing especially on attractive college co-eds. He went on to kill five more women in Utah and Colorado before being apprehended.[8]
  5. Cyanide Attack, Mohan Kumar
    Mohan Kumar, a primary school science teacher, murdered 20 women over five years. His primary targets were women from middle- and lower-income families, and bus stops were his preferred location for making friends with them. Marriage, elopement, and fleeing with their money and jewellery were all part of his plan after they were killed. To avoid paying a dowry, he persuaded women to elope with him to other towns, where he would have sex with them the night before the phoney wedding and inject them with cyanide in the form of birth control pills. He was sentenced to death in December 2013.

Modus Operandi

The term "modus operandi" refers to a serial killer's most typical manner of murdering. The offender's Modus Operandi is what he or she must do to commit the offence. The killer, for example, must be able to control his victims at the crime site by tying them up. Importantly, the Modus Operandi is a learned behaviour that can be altered.

A serial killer's Modus Operandi will change and develop in response to new situations or to include new abilities and information. Instead of tying up a victim with rope, the offender may discover that bringing handcuffs to the crime scene is easier and more successful.

Psychology is a step forward in perfecting the legal system; its position in the legal system aids in the modification of our legal system as well as the maintenance of justice, equity, and good conscience. The study of criminal psychology can aid in the prevention of future crimes, as understanding the criminal's mentality is the most effective strategy to reduce crime.
Even though that serial murder is not a new notion, it continues to confound psychologists. Researchers have attempted to investigate biological, psychological, and sociological factors that may have contributed to the formation of a serial killer's criminal mentality.

In his book Serial Murderer, Norris (1988) describes a behaviour pattern he labels serial killer syndrome.

Criminal psychology has evolved as a critical discipline that may assist law enforcement agencies and courts in improving their performance and effectively combating crime and criminals. Criminal psychology is still in its infancy in India. More finances and suitable infrastructure are needed from the government to attract students and researchers to criminal psychology, allowing for more studies and experiments to be conducted for a better end.

  1. Ipleaders, https://Blog.Ipleaders.In/The-Essence-Of-Psychology-In-Crimes/ (Last Visited Mar. 14, 2021).
  2. Legal Service India,
  3. Ipleaders, https://Blog.Ipleaders.In/Criminal-Psychology-An-Important-Area-In-The-Field-Of-Criminology/ (Last Visited Sept. 25, 2021).
  4. Legal Service India,
  5. Legal Service India,
  6. Allthatsinteresting, https://Allthatsinteresting.Com/Richard-Ramirez-Night-Stalker (Last Visited Oct. 27, 2021).
  7. Ipleaders, https://Blog.Ipleaders.In/Need-Know-Nithari-Serial-Killings/
  8. Allthatsinteresting, https://Allthatsinteresting.Com/Ted-Bundy (Last Visited Jul. 25, 2021).

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