Criminal Profiling: Myth or legend at solving crimes?

In Memory Lost, Bai Jinxi plays the role of a detective who specializes in criminal psychology and in each case, presents a profile of the criminal to help the team find the perpetrator. She is even able to guess the age as well as the character of the criminal. But how often is it used in practice? How accurate a picture can psychologists paint of the criminal just by studying their actions?

 

The application of psychology to solve crimes is a relatively young field. According to Dr L.F. Lowestein, there are 2 essential ingredients for the success of developing an accurate picture of the criminal: it requires being able to form a good behavioral analysis of the crime scene, which requires  from the profiler a combination of good instinct (knowing what was left by the criminal which reveals their character) and being able to analyse these observations scientifically.  Naturally it also means being able to work closely with the police investigators on the case.

Research has shown that the use of criminal profiling is most successful in murder, rape and abduction, and are least effective for crimes such as vandalism, burglary and vehicle crimes, possibly because it is more difficult to differentiate between these criminals compared to murder, rape, abduction. Also, the profiles of burglars and vandalists may change with their time and experience whereas murderers, rapists tend to choose a particular set of victims and use the same methods of conducting the crime as seen in the drama. Perhaps that is why, it is easier to classify them into subgroups and enable profilers to differentiate the different characteristics of these individuals. Rape, perhaps is one of the crimes where a lot of research has been done to understand the minds of these criminals. For example, in the first season, Bai Jinxi talked about the different types of rapists there are:

  • Power rapists:
  • Anger rapists:
  • Opportunistic rapists:

Currently, there are 3 different approaches to criminal profiling: criminal investigative approach. This is used in the FBI and interprets the perpetrator’s behaviour by looking at their interactions with the victim which can be seen in the crime scene(s) and on the victim themselves. Its also the approach Bai Jinxi uses in the drama.

The second approach is the clinical practitioner approach looking at each case as unique, just like a doctor would look at the case of each patient differently, to decide the right treatment.

The final approach is the scientific statistical approach, after observing and gathering information from the crime scene, the profiler will look at the profiles of criminals who have committed similar acts to work out the specific characteristics of the criminal in the case. Its more static and relies heavily on data collected previously.

Controversy

Some research has shown (Canter et al., 2004) that  even if we classify them into subgroups, it may not reliably predict the crimes they carry out in the future. This may be because it requires a lot of emotion for most people to commit crimes such as rape and murder and they may not always be methodical or commit the crime that is seen in that particular subgroup. Also criminals may be aware of criminal psychology and to hide their identity and disguise their profile, may alter their activities to do so. So the profile only predicts the traits of the individual who are more likely to commit that particular crime, but this is not absolute.

The profile is also dependent on the profiler themselves. They may stop following other crucial leads if they find a suspect that seems to fit their initial hypothesis of the criminal. Also research conducted by Eastwood et al. (2006) and Pinizzotto and Finkel (1990) that trained criminal profilers are more effective at creating an accurate profile of the criminal as those who were not at narrowing down the suspect pool or finding the real criminal.

Conclusion

Despite the seemingly amazing accuracy of the  profile that Bai Jinxi manages to draw of each criminal, in reality, criminal profiling is much more intricate, complicated and less reliable to other methods of investigation, for example forensic biochemistry ( i.e.DNA fingerprinting).  Its extremely difficult to profile someone’s character, and even less likely to be able to predict their age from looking at the crime scene and their actions. We will have to agree with Han Chen in this case.

Nevertheless, it is another tool which investigators can use, and any help at all is better than no help.

Interesting Resources to read for more knowledge on the subject:

Translation of caption

Criminal psychology: Developing a profile through the observation of evidence left in the crime scene to determine the suspect’s appearance, habits and even their looks, to discover their location, their taste in clothes, their job, their character in order to further investigate and obtain physical evidence.

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2 Comments

  1. Wow, this is interesting. Memory lost made me curious with criminal profiling through criminal psychology.It is somehow cool every time Bai Jin Xi immerse herself in the emotions of the suspect yet somehow creeps myself out sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

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