Criminal Psychology BPS309

Why Study Criminal Psychology?

Some people undertake this course to help them with their job, perhaps dealing with difficult people in welfare or community work; or perhaps working in a position within the legal profession or security industry. Others may use this as part of a wider course of study leading to a certificate or diploma; or maybe purely out of a personal interest in understanding the subject.

What do Criminal Psychologists do?

Criminal psychologists will cover a range of roles, such as –

  • Research evidence to support practice
  • Implementing treatment programmes
  • Modifying offender behaviour
  • Advising parole boards
  • Responding to changing needs of prisoners and staff
  • Stress management techniques for staff and prisoners
  • Statistical analysis used for prisoner profiling.
  • Crime analysis
  • Mental health tribunals.

This course alone does not make a person into a criminal psychologist. You require a great deal more training, and many years of experience to reach that point; but this course can be an excellent starting point. It lays a very sound foundation; upon which you can then build.

Whatever your reason; this is a comprehensive foundation study in the subject, offering the opportunity to learn from a team of highly qualified and experienced psychologists.

Number of Assignments 10

Duration (approx)

100 hours

Course Structure

There are ten lessons consisting of -

1. Introduction to Criminal Psychology

  • Definitions of Crime
  • Consensus View of what Crime is
  • Conflict View of Crime
  • Interactionist View of Crime
  • Scope of Criminal Psychology
  • What Criminal Psychologists do
  • Case Study
  • Profiling Courts
  • Correctional System

2. Psychological approaches to understanding crime

  • Biological explanations of Crime
  • Phrenology
  • Eugenics
  • XYY Chromosome Model
  • Genetics
  • Twin Studies
  • Adoption Studies
  • Nature, Nurture
  • Environmental Explanations of Crime
  • Family Influence
  • Agency Explanations; Rational Choice Theory

3. Psychology and understanding serious crimes

  • Aggression
  • Different Types of Aggression
  • Terminology
  • Drive Theories
  • Freudian Theories
  • Social Learning Theories
  • Biological and Evolutionary Theories
  • Types of Aggression
  • Aggression an against Outsiders
  • Aggression in Species
  • Aggression in Humans
  • Environmental Influences on Human Aggression
  • Imitation or Modelling
  • Familiarity
  • Reinforcement
  • Aggression and Culture
  • Other Factors in Aggression; Alcohol, Pain, Frustration
  • Murder
  • Sexual Assault
  • Stalking
  • Pursuit Behaviour
  • False Stalking Syndrome

4. Mental disorder and crime 1 – Learning disabilities and crime

  • Meaning of Learning Disabilities
  • IQ Testing
  • Crime and Intelligence
  • Modern Intelligence Testing
  • Learning Disabilities and Crime in General
  • Sex Offences and People with Learning Disabilities
  • Courts

5. Mental Disorder and Crime 2 – Psychopathy

  • Scope and Nature of Psychopathology
  • Personality Disorder
  • Psychopath
  • Heartless? Emotionless?
  • How do People become Psychopaths
  • Treatment

6. Gender and Crime

  • Scope and Nature of Gender and Crime studies
  • Rates of Crime
  • Murder and Violence
  • Prostitution
  • Case Study –Women Offenders
  • Victims
  • Murder
  • Domestic Violence
  • Sexual Abuse

7. Youth and Crime

  • Age of Criminal Responsibility
  • Risk Factors
  • Mental Health Risk
  • Conduct Disorders
  • ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • Cumulative Affect of Risk Factors
  • Prevalence and Offending
  • Case Studies
  • Young People as Victims

8. Psychology and the Police

  • Social Construction of Reported Crime
  • Eyewitness Testimony
  • Early Research
  • Schemas and EWT
  • Police Line Ups
  • Every day Uses of Psychology by Police

9. Psychology in the Courtroom

  • Social Cognition
  • Behaviour
  • Appearance
  • Expectations
  • The Primacy Effect
  • Attribution
  • Schemas and Social Perception
  • Central Traits
  • Stereotypes
  • Social Inference and Decision Making
  • Psychology and the Law
  • Guilt Bias
  • Media Effect
  • Defendant Attributes
  • Attorney Attributes

10. Psychology and Crime Prevention

  • Punishment
  • Types of Punishment
  • History of Punishment
  • Reasons for Punishment
  • Deterrents
  • Punishment and Impartiality


Lesson Aims

  • define crime and criminal psychology.
  • discuss psychological theories and approaches to understanding crime.
  • define serious crimes and explain the involvement of psychology.
  • discuss the relationship between a person having a learning disability and committing crime.
  • define psychopathy and discuss psychological theories relating to psychopathy.
  • discuss gender differences associated with crime.
  • discuss the psychological theories relating to youth and crime.
  • discuss how psychology is used by the police.
  • discuss how psychology is used in the court room.
  • discuss the use of psychology in crime prevention.


How do people become psychopaths?

In childhood, some theorise that the child is not able to learn right from wrong. The parents become angry and frustrated and try to shield the child from the consequences of their behaviour, trying to educate the child about right and wrong. The child is always in trouble and does not appear to be able to learn. Some parents may feel that the child will eventually understand, but if they don’t the parents may resort to punishment. This is the worst thing that the parent can do, what the child really requires is training in choices, consequences and supervision.

There has also been suggestions that there is a genetic link to the psychopathic personality. Psychopaths appear to lack the ability to feel what others do, the physical sensation of guilt. They may feel anger, sadness or fear, but not guilt for what they have done. Some theorists believe that sexually promiscuous psychopaths who are able to live off other people are survivors and may represent one of the genes for survival in humans.

Other research has shown that adult psychopaths do not benefit from counselling and therapy and may in fact commit further crimes more quickly and again because of it.

Brain scan research has shown that the brains of psychopaths functions and processes information differently. One piece of research showed dead bodies from car accidents to psychopaths and found that they remained calm, whereas other people were clearly upset. They do not appear to use their brain in the same way that others do, suggesting they are physically different to “normal” people.



There are three theories that are the most widespread approaches to defining crime. There are other approaches, but as these are the most widely accepted, we will consider those here.

The Consensus View

This view stems from the sociological theories of J Shepherd (1981). This school of thought holds that society functions as an integrated structure, the stability of which is dependent on consensus or agreement by its members, so that the rules, values and norms are respected by all. Therefore, the legal system of the society is a reflection of what is considered tolerable and intolerable behaviour within that particular society i.e. intolerable behaviour is disapproved of by the majority.

Before a crime can be said to have occurred, it has to be committed. So without an action, there can be no crime.

The Conflict View

The Conflict View is the direct opposite of the Consensus View.

The Interactionist View

The Interactionist View falls between the Consensus and Conflict View. It began as a field of thought within sociology called symbolic interactionism.

Learn more about these theories and a lot more through this course!


  • Why is crime thought to be socially constructed?
  • Define reconstructive memory.
  • What are the differences in offending between male and female young people?
  • What factors are thought to influence whether a young person becomes an offender?
  • Define a young offender.



Understanding criminal psychology is a valuable skill in any job where your path may cross criminal behaviour; including:

  • Criminal psychologists
  • Forensic psychologists
  • Investigative psychologists
  • Profilers
  • Criminologists
  • Social Workers
  • Security Officers

In this course we will use the term criminal psychologist. A criminal psychologist deals with the psychologist aspects of the legal processes. This includes –

  • Understanding the psychological problems associated with criminal behaviour.
  • Treatment of criminals.
  • Applying theory to criminal investigations.



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Fee Information (S3)
Prices in Australian Dollars

PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $834.96  1 x $759.05
B 2 x $451.44  2 x $410.40

Note: Australian prices include GST. 

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