, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 215-233

Criminal personality profiling


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.

This article is based in part on the doctoral dissertation of the first author. We gratefully acknowledge the suggestions and comments of John Monahan, Bruce Sales, Daniel Robinson, Darlene Howard, and James Lamiell. A special note of gratitude is given to those law enforcement agencies and individuals who participated in this study but need to remain anonymous; without their participation, this research could not have been completed. A note of thanks is given also to SSA Roger Depue and SSA Roy Hazelwood of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their valued assistance.