Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 215-233

First online:

Criminal personality profiling

An outcome and process study
  • Anthony J. PinizzottoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Georgetown University
  • , Norman J. FinkelAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Georgetown University


In this work we examine outcome and process differences in criminal personality profiling among groups of profilers, detectives, psychologists, and students, using closed police cases—one sex offense and one homicide. Two major questions guide this research: (1) Are professional profilers more accurate than nonprofilers in generating personality profiles and correctly identifying offender features from crime scene details? and (2) Is the process that the profilers use qualitatively different from that of the nonprofilers? In the written profile task, the task that is most representative of what profilers actually do, profilers write richer, more detailed, and more valid profiles than the nonprofilers for both the sex offense case and homicide case. An analysis of correct responses concerning the known offender for the sex offense case revealed that the profilers scored significantly better than the other three groups in a variety of measures; similar results were not revealed for the homicide case. Profilers, however, do not appear to process this material in a way qualitatively different from any other group.