Serial Killer Profiling

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Just as insight into the mind of the artist may be gained by examining and comparing the progression of his work, so knowledge of the mind of the serial killer can be ascertained by an examination of his canvas: The murder scene. Forensic profiling is the attempt to do just that. An investigator tries to discern information about the killer based on the information at the crime scene, deducing information about the cause from the effect. This is not an exact science, and has been often likened to an art. It is the goal of this work to provide the reader with a basic understanding of the function and application of forensic psychology, as well as an explication of some of its strengths and weaknesses.

Profiling itself has been in use since Jack the Ripper in London during the 1880s. George Phillips and Thomas Bond made predictions about the murderer’s personality based on the information at the crime scene (Winerman, 2004). The FBI now runs the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) and the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) made popular by the television show Criminal Minds. Forensic profilers interact with a large variety of crime, but the focus of this paper will lie on the interaction of profiling and serial killers.

The usefulness of profiling has been called into question many times. There are those who fall on both ends of the spectrum. Some feel that profiling is as infallible as a fingerprint, and others think it’s as reliable as a sideshow gypsy. Studies have been done that support both positions. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle: Profiling may be a useful tool when applied appropriately, but it should not be used to the exclusion of good suspects or information. It is an addendum to the investigator’s...

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...would type him as a lust killer? Do the bodies show evidence of cleaning or posing, which may be a symbolic attempt at “undoing” the murder (Bartol, 2002, p. 248)? This undoing is not to be confused with staging, which is, in the context of serial killings, generally an attempt at misdirecting the investigation (Douglas & Munn, as cited in Bartol, 2002).

Works Cited:

Holmes, R. M., & DeBurger, J. E. (1988). Serial murder. (Vol. 2). Sage Publications, Inc.

Winerman, L. (2004). Criminal profiling: The reality behind the myth. Monitor on psychology, 35(7), Retrieved from

Holmes, R., & Holmes, S. (1996). Profiling violent crimes: An investigative tool (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Bartol, C. R. (2002). Criminal behavior: A psychosocial approach. (6 ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
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