The criminal profiling illusion : what's behind the smoke and mirrors?

Snook, Brent and Cullen, Richard M. and Bennell, Craig and Taylor, Paul J. and Gendreau, Paul (2008) The criminal profiling illusion : what's behind the smoke and mirrors? Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35 (10). pp. 1257-1276. ISSN 1552-3594

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There is a belief that criminal profilers can predict a criminal's characteristics from crime scene evidence. In this article, the authors argue that this belief may be an illusion and explain how people may have been misled into believing that criminal profiling (CP) works despite no sound theoretical grounding and no strong empirical support for this possibility. Potentially responsible for this illusory belief is the information that people acquire about CP, which is heavily influenced by anecdotes, repetition of the message that profiling works, the expert profiler label, and a disproportionate emphasis on correct predictions. Also potentially responsible are aspects of information processing such as reasoning errors, creating meaning out of ambiguous information, imitating good ideas, and inferring fact from fiction. The authors conclude that CP should not be used as an investigative tool because it lacks scientific support.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Criminal Justice and Behavior
Additional Information:
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35 (10), 2008, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2008 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Criminal Justice and Behavior page: on SAGE Journals Online:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? criminal profilingpolice investigationsbelief formationpseudosciencepersonality interpretationsoffender characteristicspsychological profilesmodus-operandiviolent crimesmall samplescontagionaccuracymetaanalysisacceptancepathology and forensic medicinepsyc ??
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21 Sep 2011 08:19
Last Modified:
13 Jan 2024 00:09