Usefulness of Criminal Profiling and Its Validity

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Words: 961 |

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5 min read

Published: Oct 25, 2021

Words: 961|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Oct 25, 2021

Kocsis (2003) describes criminal profiling (CP) as the process of investigating behaviour patterns with the intention of building a profile of the possible perpetrator. This method of investigation uses evidence from the crime scene as well as any information about the crime to generate a portrayal of the possible criminal offender (Muller, 2000). Douglas et al. (1986) state that CP is not about determining the identity of the offender but to create a profile that assists in the investigation by allowing the investigators to narrow down their list of suspects by trying to figure out the perpetrator’s different personality traits. Profiling is more commonly used in crimes where the suspect shows some form of psychopathy such as homicides, sexual assault, etc. Hazelwood (1983) believed that the offender’s behaviour will reflect their personality and that analysing their attitude could enable the investigators to narrow down their list of suspects. In order to develop a profile, researchers would have to assess different aspects of the investigation such as: the criminal act, the crime scene, police statements, and post-mortem reports. An interview with the victim should also take place and it is said to be the most important step in developing the profile. Profilers believe that a profile is most useful at the beginning of a criminal case as it allows them to determine in which path the investigation should go.

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As mentioned previously, a profile is made with the intention of helping the police and pointing them in the right direction (Douglas et al., 1986). To be useful, a criminal profile is required to provide more information other than just describing the acts performed by the offender. It also needs to be as accurate as possible by separating the possible perpetrator from the rest of the population and allowing investigators to act upon it. A study by Copson (1995) shows that police officers would request help from profilers again if needed throughout other investigations as it allows them to have a second opinion on the case. Out of 184 participants, 78.3% stated that CP did not assist in solving the case, however 53.8% agreed that it allowed them to learn more about the perpetrator and the crime itself. In addition to this, 82.6% of the participants also said that profiling proved to be practically useful (Copson, 1995). Despite these results, a study by Bartol (1996) showed us the opposite. It was found that 70% of the participants, all police psychologists, seemed to question the usefulness and validity of profiling. Torres et al. (2006) believe that the results obtained were negative due to the participants not taking part in the production of profiles.

While CP is proved to be useful in different criminal cases, people are still questioning its validity. This is due to the lack of studies to validate it (Cook & Hinman, 1999). Pinizzotto and Finzel (1990) conducted a study to try and understand more about the reliability and validity of profiling. Within the 28 participants, 4 were profiling experts, 6 were police detectives, 6 were detectives, 6 were clinical psychologists and 6 were undergraduate students. Each group was asked to produce a profile for both a homicide and a sexual assault case. These profiles were then given to a group of detectives that were not involved in the study, and they were asked to rate the profiles, depending on the usefulness and utility. The detectives placed police detectives first, followed by profiling experts, detectives, clinical psychologists and finally, undergraduate students. A more recent study was performed by Kocsis (2003) where different groups of individuals (including profilers, psychologists, students, etc.) were asked to predict different criminal characteristics by using data and evidence obtained from a crime scene of a homicide that had been previously solved. There was no significant difference found in the accuracy rate between the different groups, with the profilers scoring a rate of 46%.

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To conclude, profiling has been proved to be useful in different criminal cases, however, there is not enough empirical scientific evidence that proves its validity. The use of criminal profiling has been increasing throughout the years, which means more research should be done to determine its validity.


  • Bartol, C. R., 1996. Police Psychology: Then, Now, and Beyond. Criminal Justice and Behaviour [online]. 23(1). 70 – 89.
  • Cook, P. E. & Hinman, D. L., 1999. Criminal Profiling: Science and Art. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice [online], 15(3), 230 – 241.
  • Copson, G., 1995. Coals to Newcastle? Part 1: a study of offender profiling [online]. London: Police Research Group.
  • Douglas, J. E., Burgess, A. W., 1986. Criminal Profiling: A Viable Investigative Tool Against Violent Crime. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin [online]. 55(12), 9 – 13.
  • Douglas, J. E., Ressler, R. K., Burgess, A. W. & Hartman, C. R., 1986. Criminal Profiling from Crime Scene Analysis. Behavioral Sciences & the Law [online], 4(4), 401 – 421.
  • Ferguson, C. 2013. Investigative Relevance. In: Petherick, W., ed. Profiling and serial crime: Theoretical and practical issues [online]. Third Edition. Oxford: Elsevier, 167 – 184.
  • Geberth, V. J., 1996. Practical Homicide Investigation – Tactics, Procedures and Forensic Techniques [online]. Fourth Edition. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
  • Hazelwood, R. R., 1983. The Behavior-oriented Interview of Rape Victims: The Key to Profiling. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin [online]. 52(9), 8 – 15.
  • Kocsis, R. N., 2003. Criminal Psychological Profiling: Validities and Abilities. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology [online], 47(2), 126 – 144.
  • Muller, D. A., 2000. Criminal Profiling: Real Science or Just Wishful Thinking?. Homicide Studies [online]. 4(3). 234 – 264.
  • Pinizzotto, A. J. & Finkel, N. J., 1990. Criminal Personality Profiling: An Outcome and Process Study. Law and Human Behavior [online]. 14(3). 215 – 233.
  • Torres, A. N., Boccaccine, M. T. & Miller, H. A., 2006. Perceptions of the Validity and Utility of Criminal Profiling Among Forensic Psychologists and Psychiatrists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice [online]. 37(1). 51 – 58. 
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Usefulness Of Criminal Profiling And Its Validity. (2021, October 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 10, 2023, from
“Usefulness Of Criminal Profiling And Its Validity.” GradesFixer, 25 Oct. 2021,
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