Forensic Psychology : a brief overview

Sanity Evaluation

The court often appoints a forensic psychologist to evaluate a defendant’s capability to stand trial. It is a type of assessment, also known as mental state at Time of offense (MSO) that looks at the mental state of an individual during the time of the alleged offense. This type of a mental evaluation is done when there are concerns of severe mental impairments. This could be because of emotional distress due to personal factors or because of psychological disorders or mental illnesses like Schizophrenia.

Sanity Evaluations investigate a defendant’s mental state at the time of the suspected offense. An Insanity Defense is a confirmatory defense whereby the defendant recognizes having occupied with the offense, however, contends absence of obligation because of mental sickness or imperfection. Depending on the jurisdiction, an Insanity Defense suggests a supplication of:

  • Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI)
  • Guilty yet Mentally Ill (GBMI)
  • Guilty but Insane (GBI)
  • Or Not Guilty by Reason of Mental Disease or Defect.

Sanity Evaluations are likewise alluded to as Insanity Evaluations, Mental State Evaluations, and Responsibility Evaluations (juvenile). Sanity evaluations are directed by doctoral level mental health professionals (i.e., Forensic psychologist (expert witness) or Forensic Psychiatrist) who have the preparation and experience required in the field. For example, keeping in mind the end goal to direct sanity examinations in the state of Texas, the Forensic psychologist (expert witness) or Forensic Psychiatrist is required to finish no less than 24-hours of Texas-particular or specific forensic preparing identifying with insanity evaluations (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, 46B.23). Thus, Florida statutes order that forensic evaluators experience and undergo the training given by the Department of Children and Family Services before leading forensic evaluations for criminal or juvenile courts.

Depending on the jurisdiction, a forensic evaluator could possibly be required to give an opinion of the final issue of sanity at the time of the offense. For instance, in Federal courts specialists opine on the issue of competency to stand trial, however, don’t give opinions on sanity issues. Regardless of whether the expert gives an opinion or not, a definitive choice is made by the trier of reality (i.e., Judge or Jury).

The sanity evaluation includes a review of records, collateral interviews, and face-to-face examination.  Forensic psychologist (expert witness) may also conduct psychological testing to assess for type and severity of mental illness, measure intelligence, and/or rule out malingering.


V Kavya Reddy, 3rd September 2017



Forensic Psychology : a brief overview

Ethical Implications


What are ethics?

Ethics are the basic fundamental principles that govern and guide one’s behavior and conduct in society.  One might ask as to how it plays a role in forensic psychology. Then again, ethics encompass every aspect of our lives, whether we like it or not. Forensic psychologists work with the law and the legal systems. By this, we all can infer as to how big a role ethics play in the life of a practicing forensic psychologist.

All psychologists are guided by the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct that is published by the American Psychological Association. The Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists, published in 1991 also informs the guidelines to be followed. Psychological practices within the legal arena, regardless of the guidelines followed, leads to various ethical conflicts. A forensic psychologist working in this arena must focus on objectivity and scientific rigor but must simultaneously keep in mind the ethics of the present case in hand. Many attorneys train their clients for psychological tests and not doing so is considered malpractice but this is in stark contradiction to the ethics of a forensic psychologist. Forensic experts who don’t conform to an attorney’s adversarial needs fear the loss of income and a reputation of being uncooperative.

The profession includes different cultural ethics and thus, a wide range of ethical violations arise in forensic psychology. With respect to the ethical practices of forensic psychologists, Weissman and DeBow (2003) provide a comprehensive list of the impediments or possible hindrances. These include:

  • Ignorance of psycho-legal knowledge.
  • Advocacy for a client or a particular agenda instead of remaining objective and neutral.
  • Lack of specialized forensic training
  • Assuming that jurisdictions are similar in laws and how those laws are implemented
  • Assumption that the attorney will provide the expert or psychologist with the required legal, ethical and professional information.
  • Entering into multiple relationships i.e., expert witness and therapist or consultant.
  • Failure to understand the issues concerning confidentiality and privilege communications in forensic work.
  • Failure to appreciate the role of assessment plays in forensic settings and the use of inappropriate tests.
  • Inadequate documentation
  • Failure to use appropriate sources of information in forensic evaluations.

Forensic psychologists must address the issues of potential conflicts of interests and ethical conflicts, in official written form at the initial phase of the business as working as an expert with an attorney. A partisan loyalty can be expected from lawyers working with forensic experts. Experts who mispresent facts in legal arenas may face legal and ethical sanctions. Impartiality, according to Shuman and Greenberg (2003), is considered the best advocacy as a way to strike a balance between adversarial needs and ethical obligations of a forensic psychologist. Hess (1998), gives a list of 15 questions a forensic psychologist can answer before accepting a legal case to avoid ethical pitfalls.

Ethical issues can also be avoided via education, consultation and supervision from colleagues that are experienced and possess ethical identity.


Deeksha Girish, 4th Spetember 2017




Forensic Psychology : a brief overview


“The evaluation or investigation of something as part of a methodical survey, to assess suitability for a particular role or purpose.”


Screening is done by various means in daily life- luggage is screened using x-rays in airports, people in corporate companies are screened for drug use and alcohol at random and patients are screened prevent or treat cancer. Screening from a psychological aspect involves finding if someone is suitable for a particular job.

Psychological assessment helps to understand individual uniqueness. Using simple but in-dept interviews and a comprehensive battery of well researched and standardized tests with highly reliable and valid results we can get a conclusive, complex picture of an individual.

In order for screening tests to be comprehensive and efficient, they must target various psychological factors such as intellectual and personality functioning, which further branch out to emotional, cognitive, intellectual, developmental, executive, educational, social, organic, neuro-psychological, and physiological components.

Most commonly used psychological assessments:

  1. s2Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-IV (WAIS-IV)
    • Published in 2008 by Pearson, it is the most commonly used intelligence test that is used to calculate the IQ using various sub-tests such as Block Design, Arithmetic, Digit Span, etc.
    • The founder of this test is David Wechsler, who complied the first installment (WAIS-I) in the year 1955.


  1. s7Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2)
    • It is a objective personality inventory and provides multiple dimensions like clinical syndromes, personality patterns and psychosocial stressors.
    • It is self-administered and contains a set of 567 True/False questions. It is the most widely used of these three tests and has over 115 translations.


  1. s5Rorschach Ink Blot Test (Exner Method)
  • This test is described as “an open-structured, performance-based cognitive perceptual problem-solving task” in which the administrator presents the examinee with classic inkblots and is asked to describe what the blots might be.
  • Scoring is done based on the answer given and the individual is studied on characteristics such as impulse control, stress tolerance, reality testing, imagination, cognitive style, adaptive techniques and interpersonal relationships.
  • Despite controversies, this test is said to be quite reliable and cannot be faked easily as compared to other self-administered tests.


Forensic psychology uses screening to gain some basic knowledge of a suspect’s mental and psychological condition before proceeding to more specialized testing and forming a full fledged criminal profile. Screening is used to identify offenders at a potentially high risk for a specific mental condition or disorder which may affect their trial process and other procedures that require their presence both mentally and physically.

There are two basic types of screening tests used in forensic psychology- Personality screening and cognitive screening.

Personality screening involves standardized tests such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory or the California Psychological Inventory. These are designed to measure key personality characteristics such as introversion or extroversion, intuition, honesty, neuroticism, optimism, and so on. From this, the psychologist can get a inkling if the suspect in question has committed the crime or not. In the forensic context, more specific screening tools, such as the Psychopathy Check List may also be used. Psychopathy, or anti-social personality disorder, is very common among criminals and a high score may be a useful pointer but is not, in itself, proof of guilt. Another specialized screening tool is the Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms, which detects malingering (pretending to be still ill or injured). Thus, in the forensic field, these tests emphasize on proving the integrity of the individual.

Cognitive tests examine the mental ability of the subjects. These help to determine if the suspect is capable of committing the type of crime. For instance, a suspect with very low mental ability would not have committed a computer crime that involved hacking, etc. It is more likely that the suspect would’ve committed a violent crime. Similarly, if the suspect scores very low values on verbal reasoning and memory tests, it is unlikely that he or she would’ve committed crimes that exhibit detailed planning. These kind of tests are administered through the WAIS tests.

These tests are accepted by the courts as they are validated and reliable. However, these test results by themselves cannot be conclusive and used as a final tool in court procedures. These must be used along with existing collected evidence and the mini-profile created by psychologists about the suspects.


Competency Screening Test (CST)

As the name suggests, CST is used to check the competency or proficiency of the suspects or individuals involved in trials from the dimension of mental health. This forensic instrument was designed and tested to provide objective measures based on the legal criteria for determination of a defendant’s capacity to participate in his or her own defense against criminal charges. Psychological diagnoses of mental illness or mental retardation may indicate incompetence for trial but may not be sufficient for such a finding by a court. This was introduced to prevent such mistakes and mishaps from happening in the future.

First appearing in 1764 in the British Common Law, it gave an individual the right to be both mentally and physically present to face his or her accusers. In 1960, U.S Supreme Court used competency as a valid necessity during the Dusky v Unites States(1960) case wherein it was stated that the defendant must have rational understanding of the proceedings and consult his lawyer with the same. It was also necessary for the defendant to have factual understandings of the aforementioned proceedings against him.

Description of the test and method

 The test consists of 22 self administered questions in a pencil paper test format. The questions all require sentences to be completed. Each item is related to information regarding the task of the suspect going to trial and he/she is required to give answers that disprove impairment of this knowledge in the individual.

A 3-point scale is used and the answers are marked from 0 points to 2 points.

For example: The item is “When I go to court, the lawyer will…”, the defendant must choose the answer “Defend me” which will be awarded 2 points and the answer “Put me away” will fetch 0 points.

Scores can range from 0 to 44 and a score of 20 and below is considered incompetent for trial whereas a score above 20 is considered competent for trial.


Jail Screening Assessment Tool (JSAT)

This is a forensic screens6ing tool used to identify offenders and criminals suffering from mental disorders in prison. It is a known fact that those in the criminal justice system are more susceptible to mental health issues than the general population. Even so, very little care is given to take preventive measures or to address those who are already diagnosed with mental disorders and related issues.

It is statistically proven that those who suffer from mental illnesses during a prison sentence have a more violent behavior and commit crimes after they have been released or even when they are on parole. Thus it is of paramount importance to identify mental disorders and treat them as soon as possible.

Description of the test and method of administration

 The test is administered through a brief interview (for about 20 minutes) with the inmate and consideration of relevant history. Although it is brief, the test is designed to extract sufficient information about the psychological condition of the subject. It is administered by a mental health professional such as a clinical psychologist or an intern.

The mental health screening should ideally be conducted within the first day of admission of the inmate. The purpose of this test is to identify any serious mental disorders that may require rapid management or evaluation immediately.

The interview covers 10 content areas:

  • Personal/Demographic information and social background
  • Legal status
  • Mental health assessment and treatment
  • Suicide and self-harm risk
  • Violence issues
  • Criminal history
  • Recent social adjustment
  • Recent mental status
  • Substance use and abuse history
  • Mental health history.

The JSAT is not a test that gives cut-out scores and a pointer as to which people need further assessment. It is more of a structured decision making test where the professional decides the condition of the subject and his/her mental needs based on a guided, formal, standardized structure. This test has proven its reliability and validity in both male and female inmates till date.


Aanchal Mohanty, 3rd September 2017



  6. Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960)





Forensic Psychology : a brief overview

Forensic psychotherapy



Any psychological knowledge applied in the treatment of patients suffering from mental disorders who commit various acts of violence upon themselves or others which are motivated subconsciously, consciously or by both, is termed as forensic psychotherapy. According to the APA (American Psychological Association), it is the application of clinical specialties in the legal arena. This usually involves applying various results from studies of cognitive psychology to legal questions. Forensic patients suffer from severe mental disorders that require various treatment interventions because of which, a forensic psychotherapist usually works with a forensic psychiatrist, general psychiatrists and other professionals who deliver similar wide ranged interventions that are required for the treatment of these patients. The assessment of the therapeutic needs of the individual drive the clinical discussions that present themselves during the treatment interventions. It lives on as a discipline that is considered an amalgamation of psychoanalytic psychotherapy and forensic psychology.

What does a forensic psychologist do?

Forensic psychotherapy deals mainly with core issues of sexual perversity, aggression and hostility. Therapeutic methodologies look to understand the thoughts, behaviors and feelings of individuals under treatment who may or may not have had forensic history. A forensic psychologist must possess impeccable clinical skills- assessment, report writing, interviewing and communication skills. A psychologist possessing such skills must make threat assessments, child custody evaluations, competency evaluations, counselling evaluations, screenings, PTSD assessments, treatments programs for offenders (adult and juvenile) etc. Much of a psychotherapists work involves consultations, research studies, provide themselves as an expert witness in courtroom testimonies and investigations that depend upon third party information, written documents and collateral contacts.


Mens rea evaluations

These cases, also known as insanity cases, happen to be one of the most interesting of assessment cases for any forensic psychotherapist. This type of an assessment, usually conducted in the United States, states that a person cannot be held responsible for a crime committed if he/she does not possess a guilty mind or consciousness at the time of the alleged offence. Thus, a forensic psychologist, whose work is mainly retrospective, must determine the state of mind of the individual at that the time of the offence by conducting sanity evaluation tests, psychodynamic assessments and competency screening tests (CST).

Aims of forensic psychotherapy

It focuses on understanding the psychodynamic behavior and personality of any offender. Its objective is to make the patient acknowledge his/her act and thus protect the society and the individual from further harm. The treatment to non-mitigating and useless responses to criminal behavior is usually evaluated via forensic psychotherapy. It also focuses on enhancing the understanding the underlying conscious and unconscious motivational factors that drive an individual to commit crimes.

Forensic psychotherapy is applied in both individual and group settings. It involves group work, therapeutic communities, working with families, victims and the offenders. All of this must take place within a supportive, informative institution whose make-up must include psychiatrists, social workers, helpers and administrative and clerical staff along with the psychotherapist that involve themselves with the forensic patients at one point or the other.

Usually, a strong and safe research setting and relationship is established between the forensic psychotherapist and the patient. And this enables the psychotherapist to look into the mind of the patient-offender and thus make effective progress on treating him/her. This eases the anxiety of the patient for it provides insight upon his/her prior actions. A forensic psychotherapist conducts one’s own investigations and analyzes them along with analyzing the reports of other professionals.



Selection Criteria

3  It is very important to be able to distinguish individuals suffering from some mental disorder and those who are not but commit crimes similar to that of the former group. A general trend of faking a mental disorder in order to get away after committing an offence is often observed.  A psychodynamic assessment looks at criteria that distinguishes the two by observing the individuals psychological growth, culture, family- at least three generations and all other circumstances that gives a better and clear understanding of the thoughts and behavior of the individual. Traumatic experiences and any other incident that might have affected one psychologically must be investigated and assessed thoroughly. By uncovering and evaluating the underlying motivations of a person, his/her capacity for psychodynamic treatment is measured. An individual, based on the gathered data, is either declared insane and put forward for therapy or is declared mentally sane and is provided justice accordingly.

Individual therapy vs Group therapy


It is often observed that people that have lived with large families, overlapping and overcrowding of emotions with not much money to spare and those that have not had satisfactory personal relationships with family or friends from childhood do better in individual therapy and treatment rather than group treatment whereas, patients that have been subjected to toxic and suffocating relationships, usually those that grew up with one parent from childhood or an abusive spouse, are observed to be making more progress in group therapy and treatments for it provides a warmer atmosphere in contradiction to an authoritative one-to-one session. Violence is better understood and tackled in group sessions than individual. The criterion for group or individual therapy focuses on the past, the upbringing, background of the individual along with psychodynamic assessments.

Sexual abuse and Group Therapy

Patients who have sexually abused and those who have been sexually abused make most progress in group therapy. Most of these patients have been subjected to violence and antisocial actions within their homes. Thus, a group analytic therapy provides a platform for them to comfortably share their experiences and also brings about a better understanding of the issues they have faced or might be facing. Through this, both the perpetrators and victims of sexual abuse are enlightened whilst feeling secure.

It can thus be concluded that group therapy and analysis could prove to be highly beneficial in the vast field of forensic psychology.


Deeksha Girish, 4th September 2017


Forensic Psychotherapy






Forensic Psychology : a brief overview


Born : 9 May ,1893

Death : 2 May,1947



William Marston was born in Clifftondale In Maryland.Marston began as a lawyer, then a psychologist. He invented the first polygraph lie detector and later became the creator of the famous comic book character Wonder Woman.

Marston discovering the correlation between blood pressure and lying. He then built a machine to record the person’s blood pressure while the subject was being interviewed. This was the advent as the worlds first polygraph lie detector. Marston also contributed to the creation of the DISC model of personality inventory.  

In 1923 Marston testified in court for the case of Frye v/s United States. This marked the first time that psychologists began to appear in court


William Marston received his B.A. in 1915 and a PhD in 1921 in psychology.

Marston then traveled  to Universal Studios where he spent a year as Director of Public Services

He created the component of Systolic pressure which was used as a component in the polygraph test.

William Marston was a major contributor to the field of forensic psychology. Marston used his knowledge of law and psychology to aid in the growth of the field.

Marston was the creator of the systolic blood pressure test, which became one component of the modern polygraph invented by John Augustus Larson in Berkeley, California. Marston’s wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston suggested a connection between emotion and blood pressure to William, observing that, “[w]hen she got mad or excited, her blood pressure seemed to climb”. Although Elizabeth is not listed as Marston’s collaborator in his early work, Lamb, Matte (1996), and others refer directly and indirectly to Elizabeth’s own work on her husband’s research. She also appears in a picture taken in his laboratory in the 1920s (reproduced by Marston, 1938). Marston set out to commercialize Larson’s invention of the polygraph when he subsequently embarked on a career in entertainment and comic book writing, and appeared as a salesman in ads for Gillette Razors, using a polygraph motif.

From his psychological work, Marston became convinced that women were more honest than men in certain situations and could work faster and more accurately. During his lifetime, Marston championed the latent abilities and causes of the women of his day.

Marston was also a writer of essays in popular psychology. In 1928, he published Emotions of Normal People, which elaborated the DISC Theory. Marston viewed people behaving along two axes, with their attention being either passive or active; depending on the individual’s perception of his or her environment as either favorable or antagonistic. By placing the axes at right angles, four quadrants form with each describing a behavioral pattern:

  • Dominance produces activity in an antagonistic environment
  • Inducement produces activity in a favorable environment
  • Submission produces passivity in a favorable environment
  • Compliance produces passivity in an antagonistic environment.


Marston posited that there is a masculine notion of freedom that is inherently anarchic and violent and an opposing feminine notion based on “Love Allure” that leads to an ideal state of submission to loving authority. In 1929, he wrote on the blossoming Men’s Rights Movement as a newspaper columnist.


Akhil Srinivas,3 September 2017

Forensic Psychology : a brief overview


Born : July 8,1857

Death : October 18, 1911


Alfred Binet was a french psychologist who was known for his contribution to the intelligence test. The test originated after the French government commissioned Binet to develop an instrument that could identify school kids that needed remedial studies

Alfred binet was born in Nice,France. After receiving his law degree in 1878, Alfred Binet began to study science at the Sorbonne.

Binet began working  at Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris as a researcher for a neurologist. He later got a job Laboratory of Experimental Psychology where he began as an associate director and researcher. He later moved to the position of Director.

Alfred Binet said “It seems to us that in intelligence there is a fundamental faculty, the alteration or the lack of which, is of the utmost importance for practical life. This faculty is judgment, otherwise called good sense, practical sense, initiative, the faculty of adapting one’s self to circumstances. A person may be a moron or an imbecile if he is lacking in judgment; but with good judgment he can never be either. Indeed the rest of the intellectual faculties seem of little importance in comparison with judgment” (Binet & Simon, 1916, 1973, pp.42-43).

Binet unlike his contemporaries focused more on memory processes such as attention and memory rather than math and reading. Binet created the Binet –Simon scale which was initially used to determine students with special needs. The scale consisted of 30 tasks with increasing complexity

Binet himself believed that the intelligence test he had designed had limitations. He believed that intelligence was complex and could not be fully captured by a single quantitative measure. He also believed that intelligence was not fixed.

This test contributed immensely to the field of forensic psychology as this test could be used widely  as it had a high level of practicality.

Binet had done a series of experiments to see how well chess players played when blindfolded. He found that only some of the master chess players could play from memory and a few could play multiple games simultaneously without looking at the boards. To remember the positions of the pieces on the boards, some players envisioned exact replicas of specific chess sets, while others envisioned an abstract schema of the game. Binet concluded that extraordinary feats of memory such as blind chess playing could take a variety of mnemonic forms. He recounted his experiments in a book entitled Psychologie des grands calculateurs et joueurs en echec (Paris: Hachette, 1894).

He also  studied sexual behavior, coining the term erotic fetishism to describe individuals whose sexual interests in nonhuman objects, such as articles of clothing, and linking this to the after-effects of early impressions in an anticipation of Freud.

He also studied abilities of Valentine Dencausse, the most famous chiromancer in Paris in those days.


Akhil Srinivas, 3 September 2017


Forensic Psychology : a brief overview

Criminal Profiling


When my friends were busy watching the latest Game of Thrones episode, I was busy watching crime drama sitcoms like Mentalist, Criminal Minds and Law & Order. I didn’t just watch them, I sat and dissected them, drew little mind maps in my head and thought about them quite a lot. The police procedures intrigued me enough to do my own research on investigative methods used in recent times and how they’ve developed over time.

f2Criminal profiling is one such investigative measure used by law enforcement bodies to keep a record of criminals, to identify likely suspects and to analyze patterns that may predict future offences and victims that may fall prey to a crime. Criminal profiling is also known as offender profiling, criminal personality profiling, criminological profiling, behavioral profiling, or criminal investigative analysis. Criminal profiling first made an appearance in the year 1888 in the case of Jack the Ripper, when two physicians, George Phillips and Thomas Bond used clues from the crime scene to make predictions. In recent times, the FBI uses this tool extensively when compared to it’s fellow law enforcing agencies.


Now that we have defined the term, what exactly does criminal profiling consist of?

 It could be any psychological variable like personality traits that manifest themselves in the way the crime is committed or the things left in the crime scene, psychopathologies and behavioral patterns. At the same time, it could also be demographic variables such as age, sex, race or geographical location.

Although profiling is used to reduce the variables in the permutations and combinations involved in a police procedure, it has some very broad goals – helping investigators examine evidence from crime scenes and victim and witness reports to develop an offender description and providing a “psychological evaluation of belongings found in the possession of the offender and offering suggestions and strategies for the interviewing process.

In 2001, Ainsworth came up with four approaches to profiling:

  1. f3Geographical approach – this approach looks at the location and time of the offence to correlate between crimes and throws light on the offender’s work and where he/she lives.
  2. Investigative psychology – this uses existing psychological theories and methods to predict the offender’s characteristics from the offending behavior.
  3. Typological approach – this classifies the said offender into particular “types” after observing the characteristics (which are typical to distinct types).
  4. Clinical profiling – considers insights from clinical and psychiatric aspects of psychology to aid the investigation where, the offender is anticipated to suffer from psychological abnormalities.


Current Practice


Since profiling has become just one tool among the many in an investigator’s pocket, it is done systematically in steps in the recent times.

Steps involved in profile development are:-

1.Profiling inputs

This involves observing, questioning and studying all evidence related to the crime itself, and none involving the suspect(s) as it may give rise to prejudices.

The 4 phases of the criminal act (murder) are:-

  1. Antecedent – This questions the motivation and plan the perpetrator had in mind.
  2. Method & Manner – What type of victim(s) did the offender select and what was the method of killing, for example shooting, rape, stabbing, etc.
  3. Body Disposal – Questions whether the body disposed at the scene of the murder or elsewhere.
  4. Post-offence Behavior – The criminal’s behavior pos- crime is observed, i.e., is he/she involving them self in media coverage, contacting investigators, etc.

2.Decision Process Models

This takes information from step 1 and organizes it in a manner as to find distinguishable patterns in the crime. Details of the crime like the victim, the offender, the type of offence and the risk of the offender being caught are studied thoroughly.

 3.Criminal Assessment

The crime is recreated to determine the correct chronological sequence and the interaction of those involved.

4.Criminal Profiling

The offender’s background, physical characteristics, habits, beliefs, values, and previous behaviors are analyzed and compared to the hypotheses made when the crime scene was observed.


This includes applying the created profile to investigation by predicting various facets of the crime like – which group of suspects are most likely to commit additional crimes, victims that may be targeted in the future, location of the future criminal offence, etc.


This is a form of self-evaluation to check how successful the profiling was, in checking, taking in or arresting the perpetrator.


Notable Profilers

  • Walter C. Langer- In 1943, he developed Adolf Hitler’s profile which hypothesized that we would lose the war.
  • James Brussel – He was a psychologist who rose to fame for creating an accurate profile of the Mad Bomber.
  • Patrick Mullany & Howard Teten- In 1970, they founded the  Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI and increased the ability of detectives by examining the evidence for mental disorders and other traits of the offender
  • Robert Keppel & Richard Walter- Investigated the notorious killers Ted Bundy and the Green River Killer. Further went on to develop the four sub-types of violent crime and the Hunter Integrated Telemetry System (HITS).


The psychology- law enforcement relationship

Dr. Gérard Labuschagne, a forensic psychologist and head of SAPS Investigative Psychology Section

 In the profiling field, tension exists between the law enforcement and psychologists simply because psychology is not considered empirical, logical conclusive enough. Those in law enforcement are more inclined towards the ‘investigative experience’ than psychologists.

At the end of the day, one must remember that both work for the same outcome and their work may be different – psychologists conceptualize people and law enforcers regulate them, but both work with the same foundation- people.

Aanchal Mohanty, 3rd September 2017













Forensic Psychology : a brief overview

Anger Management:

Anger management 1

Anger is a feeling described by hatred toward somebody or something you feel has purposely treated you terribly. Anger can be something worth being thankful for. It can give you a method to express negative emotions, for instance, or inspire you to discover answers for issues.

Nevertheless, exorbitant outrage can cause issues. Increased blood pressure and other physical changes related with anger make it hard to think straight and damage your physical and emotional wellness.

There are mainly seven types of anger and surprisingly some of these types may be good for you. Expressing anger to a limited extend is considered a good conduct but certain aggressive behaviour can harm the people close to us. Anger management has the power to rehabilitate anybody. Anger management is defined as techniques or exercises used to control or reduce feelings and the expression of anger.

Anger management 2The 1990s witnessed a renaissance of interest in the rehabilitation of offenders in many criminal justice systems throughout the world. The causes of this reawakening of interest are many, but include the increasing evidence that rehabilitation programs have a significant impact on rates of recidivism. Some violent offences occur because offenders cannot deal effectively with their anger, which has a tendency to be communicated in introverted ways and uprooted onto improper targets. In an anger management program, cognitive behavioural techniques are used to help offenders deal more effectively with their feelings of anger. Countries such as Australia, America, and Britain have arranged an entire curriculum to help offenders overcome their anger problems.

The aim is to teach offenders to:

(1) Recognize their own feelings of anger;

(2) Control their angry behaviour; and

(3) Resolve conflict in positive ways.

In anger management programs, offenders usually learn to manage their anger by many techniques.

Cognitive preparation: offenders analyse their own patterns of anger: the types of situations that make them angry and the thinking processes that accompany their anger. They may identify irrational thinking processes that lead to or sustain angry outbursts.

  • Skills acquisition: the offenders learn skills to help them manage their anger. These might include relaxation, avoidance, or social skills such as assertiveness and conflict resolution.
  • Application practice: offenders apply their skills in a controlled and non-threatening environment. This could include role-playing of angry situations with other offenders.



Forensic psychologists are usually asked to help assist in legal conflicts. Individuals usually seeking help from clinicians do not attempt to engage in malingering but during the battle for child custody or while going on trial examinees may either fake good or fake bad in the interview and testing. Forensic psychologist conduct interview or testing to determine whether the examinee is lying or not. Faking bad could either be to show that the examinee is mentally insane or the examinee might fake a mental illness to avoid going on trial. A forensic psychologist must also be able to differentiate between fake and exaggerated symptoms. A victim might exaggerate his/her symptoms to make the court believe of his/her sexual harassment. Faking good could be observed during divorces, where a parent could portray themselves as the better parent in fear of losing the custody of the child.

Forensic psychologists require more than excellent clinical techniques to distinguish the nearness and degree of malingering amid an assessment. Numerous forensic psychologist depend on mental testing when leading an assessment. The most popular test is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2).

The MMPI-2 has subscales that may suggest attempts to fake good or fake bad. Different tests have been produced to explicitly address the issue of malingering. For analyst, the Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test (M-FAST) and the Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms (SIRS) are two test intended to identify faking of manifestations. An example of a brief test used to detect malingering is the Rey Visual Memory Test. This “test” gives the examinee 15 regular images (i.e. 1, 2, 3, A, B, C, I, II, III, and so forth) and asks the examinees to view the items for one minute and then recall as many items as possible.

Without a doubt, recent surveys of attorneys’ show that the larger part of attorneys feel they ought to illuminate and set up their clients for any psychological assessment. Lawyers may mentor their clients on the best way to react to mental testing and some lawyers contend that it is their moral commitment to help their client along these lines and inability to do as such could be interpreted as negligence.

To summarize, malingering is a constant concern when conducting a legal evaluation. The detection of malingering requires clinical judgement as well as sound psychological assessment.

Tests have been created to help the forensic psychologist in recognizing malingering. Notwithstanding, no single test should be used for the basis of forensic decision. Or maybe, a battery of tests joined with meetings and outsider reports can help the analyst in building up a conclusion. As forensic psychology keeps on developing, lawyers and different buyers will turn out to be more advanced about mental appraisal and the potential for successful malingering will keep on increasing.

Competency evaluation:

court room

The origins of competency to stand trial can be traced to Babylonian Talmud and early Judeo-Christian texts along with English common law that emerged at some point prior to the 14th century. Competence refers to a defendant’s present ability to meaningfully participate in his or her defense and comprehend the trial process. Competency to stand trial (CST) is a doctrine of jurisprudence that allows for the postponement of criminal proceedings should a defendant be unable to participate in his or her defense on account of mental disorder or intellectual disability. Issues of competency may be raised at any point during the proceedings and, if a bona fide doubt exists regarding competency, the issue must be formally considered, thus requiring a forensic evaluation. Approximately 60,000 defendants are evaluated for trial competency annually, making this the most common forensic issue evaluated.

It is normal practice that when the issue of competency is raised, a forensic evaluation is conducted along these lines. These assessments are court-requested most of the time and may happen in various areas, for example, jails, community-based outpatient centres, or mental health centres. Once an evaluator finishes a competency assessment, a written report is submitted to the court. In the event that defence and prosecution attorneys do not acknowledge the supposition of the evaluator, a short hearing might be held wherein the evaluator is made a request to affirm; nonetheless, this is rarely. The ultimate decision regarding a defendant’s competence rests with the court, which is not bound by the evaluator’s opinion. Most courts, however, accept the opinion or recommendation of the evaluator, resulting in very high levels of examiner-judge agreement.

Clinicians who undertake the responsibility for conducting these evaluations should undergo sufficient training with supervision. In addition, they will need to be familiar with the local rules regarding reports, testimony, and treatment of defendants found to be incompetent to stand trial.

Aakshta J Rao, 3rd September 2017

Forensic Psychology : a brief overview

William Stern

William stern is a German psychologist and philosopher said to be a pioneer in the psychology of personality and intelligence. Born as Louis William Stern, he invented the term Intelligence Quotient in 1897, he invented the tone variator, which could message human perception of sound in an unprecedented way.

Stern was born in Berlin, Germany in 1871, the grandson of the German-Jewish reform philosopher Sigismund Stern. He married Clara Joseephy, a fellow psychologist and had three children-Hilde, Eva, Gunther. In 1893, he received his PhD from the University of Berlin where he studied under Hermann Ebbinghaus. He studied at the University of Breslau from 1897-1916. In 1916, he was appointed the Professor of Psychology at the University of Hamburg. He remained at Hamburg until 1933 as the Director of the Psychologic Institute. Stern who was a Jew, was ousted by the Hitler regime and the rise of Nazi power. Before reaching the United States, he fled to Netherlands in 1933.  He worked as a Lecturer and Professor at Duke University under William McDougall. He taught at Duke University till his sudden death caused by a heart attack in 1938. Stern was considered in his time as a leading youth psychologist and one of the foremost authorities in differential psychology.


Stern was very active in the psychology of testimony and even established the first journal to explore the subject, Contributions to the Psychology of Testimony. In 1901, William Stern collaborated with a criminologist on an interesting experiment that further showed the level of inaccuracy in eyewitness accounts.

Based on his research, Stern came up with many conclusions. Suggestive questions could compromise the accuracy of eyewitness events. He proposed that eyewitnesses are susceptible to errors and that witnessing variables, such as emotions at the time of the event, can serve to affect the accuracy rate. He also concluded that there is a huge difference between adult and child witnesses. Memory of the witness can get affected by many causes. The most prominent one is where the events that occur between the original event and its recall will have an influence on the memory of the individual. Lastly, he stated that the lineups aren’t helpful unless they are matched by age and appearance.

Navya Sudheer , 2nd September 2017

Forensic Psychology : a brief overview

Hugo Munsterberg

Hugo Munsterberg is a German American psychologist. He was one of the pioneers in applied psychology and also extended his research and theories to industrial or organizational psychology, legal, medicine, clinical, educational and business settings. He made significant contributions to Clinical Psychology. In his work with mental patients, he discounted the unconscious postulated by Sigmund Freud. Rather he believed that all psychological processes had a parallel physical process in the brain, and thus that mental illness had a physical cause.

He is considered by many “the father of industrial psychology,” whose work in this area paved the way for the modern industrial-organizational psychology. His research on eyewitness testimony set up some fundamental insights in forensic psychology. There, he brought attention to the role of experience and memory on the perception and recall of events, showing that different people will describe the same event quite differently.

Despite the breakout of world war one, he stayed loyal to Germany which led to many controversies, overshadowing his professional achievements. His work was later influential and inspired many.


Hugo was born into a merchant family in Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland), then a port city in West Prussia. His father Moritz was a famous lumber merchant and his mother Minna Bernhardi was a renowned artist and musician. She was Moritz second wife and had two kids of her own, Hugo and Oscar, and from Moritz’s first wife, there were two kids, Otto and Emil, who would be Hugo’s step brothers. He married a distant cousin, Selma Doppler of Strasbourg.

His family had a great interest in the arts and Hugo was encouraged to explore music, literature, art, poetry, foreign language and acting. When he joined the University of Leipzig, he attended a lecture of Wilhelm Wundt which played an important role in his development of interest for the subject of psychology. He eventually became Wundt’s research assistant. He received his Ph.D. in physiological psychology in 1885 under Wundt’s supervision at the age of 22. Possibly following Wundt’s advice Munsterberg decided to study medicine and in 1887 received his medical degree at the University of Heidelberg. He also passed an examination that enabled him to lecture as a privatdocent at University of Freiburg. While at Freiburg he started a psychology laboratory and began publishing papers on a number of topics including attentional processes, memory, learning, and perception.

In 1891, Hugo was promoted to assistant professor and attended the first International Congress in Psychology in Paris where he met William James, who invited him on the following years to the United States at Harvard University to be the chair of the psychology lab for a three-year term. He accepted the offer and spent the next three years successfully being the chairman of the psychology lab at Harvard. He went to America learning English very fast and his classes were very popular with the students which resulted in students from James classes joining Hugo’s.

In 1898, he was elected the President of the American Psychological Association. In 1908, he went to become the President of the American Philosophical Association and affiliated with many organizations including the Washington Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was the organizer and vice-president of the International Congress of Arts and Sciences at the Saint Louis World’s Fair of 1904, vice-president of the International Psychological Congress in Paris in 1900, and vice-president of the International Philosophical Congress at Heidelberg in 1907. In 1910, he was appointed exchange professor from Harvard to the University of Berlin. During that year he founded the Amerika-Institut in Berlin. During the whole period of his stay in the United States, he worked for the improvement of the relations between the United States and Germany, writing in the U.S. for a better understanding of Germany and in Germany for a higher appreciation of the United States.


Because of his work in applied psychology, Munsterberg was well known to the public, academic world, and scientific community. The outspoken views of Munsterberg on the issues of the upcoming the First World War raised storms of controversy about his ideals and position.

At his death, the general attitude towards Munsterberg had changed and his death was relatively unnoticed due to his pro-German attitudes and his support for German policies. He remained an experimental psychologist and director of Psychological lab at Harvard until his untimely death during a lecture, on the lecture platform due to stress in the year 1916.

Views on Women

He held controversial views of women. He thought they were incapable of rational thinking and thus not attend graduate school or be allowed to serve on juries. He was against women teaching at academic institutions as he thought that is was a bad role model for boys.


Contributions to psychology

His contributions to the science of psychology included educational, clinical, industrial, and forensic. He has published many books such as Psychotherapy (1909) for clinical psychology, Psychology and Industrial Efficiency (1913) for industrial psychology, On the Witness Stand (1908) for forensic psychology.

In his work On the Witness Stand was a landmark discussing the field of psychology in legal proceedings and one of the foundational works in the field of forensic psychology. In the book, he addressed many topics which are still relevant to this day.

Hugo pointed out rational and scientific ways of probing facts attested by human witness by application of experimental psychology to the administration of law. Hugo argued that the lawyer, judge and jurymen were sure that they did not need the help of the newly emerged science of psychology and had trusted their legal instinct and their common sense, and if a time comes where the jurist needs the concession of spirit of modern psychology, the public opinion would exert some pressure.

Hugo dealt with topics such as -Illusions, memory of the witness, traces of emotion, untrue confessions, suggestions in court, hypnotism and crime, prevention of the crime.


This is one of the most important topics in his book which was related to the ideas of sensation and perception of modern times. Illusions are biased by individual differences. They are unintentional mistakes of the sound mind. What is taken for granted is that we perceive our surrounding uniformly. There is a great difference in a man’s perception. Capabilities and habits of the individual also influence the way they perceive. In an experiment held by him, he found that even students made mistakes when it was a basic stimulus.  He extended these findings into forensic psychology into the witness memory. The witness could easily make mistakes regarding the details of the crime. The perception of the witness might be correct but the later reproduction may have mistakes. Each individual would give different false details due to individual differences. He made an argument that witness memory is prone to error and should be scrutinized.

Memory of the Witness

Inspite best intentions, good memory and calm mood, a whole series of confusions, illusions, forgetting, wrong conclusions and yielding with suggestions were mingled with what the individual had to report. The fact that the courts all over the world, have their witness take an oath where they say the truth but not always, there are combinations of memory and illusions, of knowledge and suggestion and of experience and wrong conclusions. Not every sworn in statement is accepted in absolute reality as contradictions between the witnesses are too familiar. Confidence in the reliability of memory is so general that suspicion of memory illusions evidently plays a small role in the mind of the jury and cross-examining lawyers are dominated by the idea that a false statement is the result of the product of intentional falsehood. The witness is known to put their best effort in putting out the truth in the nest way possible.

He also stated how suggestibility can influence multiple aspects of legal proceedings. He wrote about how witness suggestibility may be less problematic as their memory of the event is already in question.

Traces of emotions

Hidden feelings betray itself often against the will of the individual. It may be easy suppress the conspicuous movements by which we usually accentuate the emotions. The mental life, which includes perception, attention, thought, feeling and will, play an important role in the court procedure. Thought one might suppress the show of emotions from the outside, psychologists can register the symptoms of inner excitement and more than that, show the effects of feelings and emotions which cannot be seen through mere observation. Instruments can be used to find even the slightest change in emotions. Pleasurable and unpleasant moods portray themselves in opposite movements-impulses of which the individual is unaware of. Heart beat(sphygmographs), movement of the eyeballs, respiration(pnemograph), temperature, polygraph, etc. are checked by psychologists. This information can be used when statements are made on the witness stand.

Untrue Confessions

Of course, in a criminal procedure there cannot be any better evidence than a confession, provided that it is reliable and well proved. If the accused acknowledges in express words the guilt in a criminal charge, the purpose of the procedure seems to have been reached; and yet at all times and in all nations experience has suggested a certain distrust of confessions. The earnestness with which caution is urged is decidedly different at different periods; the danger of accepting confessions seems to have been felt more strongly at some times than at others.  it referred to possible promises or threats by other members of the community. No doubt, the chances for such influences were different, too, at various times and in different social conditions. The self-sacrificing desire to exculpate others has played its role occasionally also. In short, there is no lack of social motives to make it conceivable from the start that an accused makes of his own accord a confession against himself which is not true. The untrustworthiness of memory under all such conditions has nothing whatever to do with the intentions and the veracity of the witness. The average man knows anyhow very little of the working of his own mind and his particular variations escape his attention.


He argues against the notion that hypnotism should be used in court proceedings. Not only will the jury be unlikely to believe if the witness testimony if induced during a hypnotic state but also it would only be reliable if the witness had been in a hypnotic state during the crime. He also argued that hypnotism could serve a role in the crime.

Prevention of the crime

He wrote about the prevention of crime in the sociocultural level. He blamed the society for the creation of criminal behavior, mainly through negative events and experiences. He stated that people may have a biological predisposition for crime, but the environment shapes an individual. A criminal is someone who fails to control his impulses. He argues for the power of social hygiene to teach those individuals to control their criminal impulses, and that emphasis on punitive justice should be decreased

Till this day, his works remain a foundation for the science of forensic psychology.


Navya Sudheer, 2nd September 2017