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Flashcards in Forensic Psychology (definitions) Deck (42):


An act committed in violation of the law


Official Statistics

Figures based on number of crimes reported and recorded by police
Used by government to inform crime prevention strategies


Victim Survey

A questionnaire that involves asking a sample of people which crimes have been committed against them and whether they were reported or not.


Offender Survey

A self-report measure
Requires people to record the number and types of crime committed over a specific period


Offender Profiling

A behavioural and analytical tool intended to help investigator predict and profile characteristics of unknown criminals


Top-Down Approach

Profilers start with a pre-established typology and work down in order to assign offenders to one of two categories


Organised Offender

Shows evidence of planning, targets the victim, tends to be socially and sexually competent, higher than average intelligence


Disorganised Offender

Shows little evidence of planning, leaves clues and tends to be socially and sexually incompetent, lower that average intelligence


Bottom-Up Approach

Profilers work from evidence collected from crime scene to develop hypotheses about likely characteristics, motivation and social background of offender


Investigative Psychology

A form of bottom-up profiling
Matches details from the crime scene with statistical analysis of typical offender behaviour patterns based on psychological theory


Geographical Profiling

A form of bottom-up profiling
Based on the principle of spatial consistency: an offender's operational base and possible future offences are revealed by geographical locations of their previous crimes


Atavistic Form

Biological approach to offending
Attributes criminal activity to the fact that offenders are genetic throwbacks/ primitive sub species ill-suited to conforming to rules of modern society
Distinguishable by facial and cranial characteristics



DNA produces 'instructions' for general physical features of an organism and also specific physical features (e.g eye colour)
These may impact on psychological features (e.g. intelligence)
Genes are inherited


Neural Explanation

Any explanation of behaviour in terms of (dys)functions of the brain and nervous system
Includes the activity of brain structures (e.g. hypothalamus) and neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin)


The Criminal Personality

An individual who scores highly on measures of extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism and cannot be conditioned easily
Likely to engage in offending behaviour


Level of Moral Reasoning

The process where an individual draws upon their own value system to determine whether an action is right or wrong


Kohlberg's Model and Criminality

Objectified the process of 'Level of Moral Reasoning' by identifying different levels of reasoning based on people's answers to moral dilemmas


Hostile Attribution Bias

Tendency to judge ambiguous situations/ actions of others, as aggressive and/or threatening



Type of deception that involves downplaying the significance of an event/ emotion


Cognitive Distortions

Faulty, biased and irrational ways of thinking that mean we perceive ourselves, other people and the world inaccurately and often negatively


Differential Association Theory

An explanation for offending: proposes that, through interaction with others, individuals learn their values, attitudes, techniques and motives for criminal behaviour


Psychodynamic Explanations

A group of theories influenced by the work of Freud
Share the belief that unconscious conflicts, rooted in early childhood, drive future behaviour


Custodial Sentencing

Judicial sentencing determined by a court
Offender is punished by serving time in prison/ in some other closed therapeutic and/or educational institution





Behaviour Modification

Treatment based on the principles of operant conditioning to replace undesirable behaviours with more desirable ones through use of positive and negative reinforcement


Anger Management

Therapeutic programme which involves identifying signs that trigger anger, as well as learning techniques to calm down
Offered in prisons to encourage self-awareness and facilitate rehabilitation


Restorative Justice

System for dealing with criminal behaviour
Focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims
Enables offenders to see impacts of their crime and empowers victims by giving them a 'voice'


Atavistic Characteristics

Cranial - narrow sloping brow, strong prominent jaw, high cheekbones, facial asymmetry
Physical - dark skin, extra toes, nipples or fingers
e.g. Murderers - bloodshot eyes, long ears, curly hair
Sexual deviants - glinting eyes, swollen fleshy lips, projecting ears


Candidate Genes

Jari Tiihonen et al (2014) revealed abnormalities on two genes that may be associated with crime - MAOA gene (linked to aggression) and CDH13 (linked to substance abused and attention deficit disorder)


Diathesis-Stress Model

A tendency towards criminal behaviour may come about through the combination of genetic predisposition and biological/ psychological trigger (e.g. having criminal role models)


Prefrontal Cortex

The part of the brain that regulates emotional behaviour
Raine (2011) reported that there are many brain-imaging studies demonstrating individuals with antisocial personalities having reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex


Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD)

Associated with reduced emotional responses, a lack of empathy for the feelings of others, a condition that characterises many convicted criminals


Affectionless Psychopathy (Bowlby)

Characterised by a lack of guilt, empathy and feeling for others
These individuals are likely to engage in acts of delinquency


Deterrence - Aims of Custodial Sentencing

Based on the behaviourist idea of conditioning through punishment
Unpleasant prison experience is designed to put off the individual from engaging in in offending behaviour


Incapacitation - Aims of Custodial Sentencing

Offenders are taken out of society to prevent them reoffending as a means of protecting the public
Likely to depend on the severity of the offence


Retribution - Aims of Custodial Sentencing

Based on the biblical notion an 'eye for an eye'
The idea that the offender should pay in some way for their actions (e.g. prison)


Rehabilitation - Aims of Custodial Sentencing

Reform - prison should provide opportunities to develop skills and training or to access treatment programmes for drug addiction


Institutionalisation - Effects of Custodial Sentencing

Inmates become accustomed to prison routines and norms and are no longer able to function on the outside


Prisonisation - Effects of Custodial Sentencing

Behaviour that may be considered unacceptable in the outside world may be encouraged and rewarded inside the walls of the institution


Stress and Depression - Effects of Custodial Sentencing

Suicide rates are considerably higher in prison, as well as self-harm
Stress in prison may increase the risk of psychological disturbance following release


Token Economy

Based on operant conditioning
Reinforcing desirable behaviour with a token that can then be exchanged for some kind of reward


Restorative Justice Council (RJC)

Independent body whose role it is to establish clear standards for the use of restorative justice and to support victims and specialist professionals in the field