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
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
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
What Is Psychology?
Psychology is described as a science that examines a person's state of mind to
predict human behaviour. 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
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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
With the help of four basic roles, one can figure out the scope of criminal
psychology. The roles are the following:
- 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
- Experimental role
Experts in this area undertake research to assist judges and juries in making
decisions in cases by questioning eyewitness credibility and providing
- Actuarial role
Experts in this capacity use data such as the probability of an event and also
question an individual's chances of reoffending.
- 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
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
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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�and 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.
- 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.
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.
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