Psychology is a branch of the scientific discipline which is focalized on canvasing people's behaviors, thoughts and feelings. In essence, it concentrates on the study of the human mind and behavior. Psychology as a science is new with its advances being dated around 150years ago. Psychologists, scholars of the said discipline, purport to study everything pertaining to the day to day activities of the human life: ranging from the basic functions of the human brain; the conscious and unconscious state of human beings; reasoning; memory personality; mental state and in some cases language.
Psychology is an all-encompassing and multifaceted discipline with numerous sub-sections such as human development, sports, health, social, clinical and cognitive process. In addition, the classification of Psychology is not limited to science but it can also be classified as a profession. As a science, scientific methods are incorporated in the research of the psychological phenomenon. That said, the ultimate objective of Psychology is not only to understand the complex nature of human thinking and behavior but use the knowledge in application to solve practical problems.
The heart of this paper is intent on discoursing criminal psychology and forensic psychology with the aim of demonstrating that the latter is different from the former.
Fields of study in psychology
Citing the panoptic nature of the field of psychology, different fields of psychology have been established to deal with the emanating subtopics from the study of the human mind and behavior. Below is an insight into some of the most pertinent psychological fields.
' Abnormal psychology. This concerns itself with psychopathology and abnormal behavior. It covers disorders such as: depression, obsession, compulsion, sexual deviation among others. Psychotherapists and clinical psychologists are more involved in this area.
' Clinical psychology. It is majorly involved with the assessment and treatment of mental illness, psychiatric and abnormality related issues.
' Comparative psychology. It concerns itself with the study of animal behavior. This field of study started with the works of Charles Darwin and Georges Romanes and has continually been expanded.
' Cognitive psychology. This involves the study of mental process such as the thinking process, learning process, and how people see or perceive things. This sub part of psychology is highly related to other fields such as neuroscience, philosophy and linguistics.
' Biopsychology. This makes an attempt at understanding how the brain and neurotransmitters affect and to extreme points affect human behaviors, thoughts and feelings. The field can basically be viewed as a merger of neuroscience and psychology.
' Development psychology. It mainly deals with the general development of a human from childhood to adult hood. Is seeks to understand and explicate why human behavior changes during development. The field compasses all aspects of human development: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, perceptual and personality development.
' Educational psychology. This studies the various ways in which people garner knowledge. Moreover, it also focuses on the differences between gifted learners and those with learning disabilities; and goes ahead to study the disabilities involved.
' Experimental psychology: is a sub section of psychology that uses scientific methods to research the mind and behavior.
Similarities between Criminal Psychology and Forensic Psychology
Both the criminal and forensic psychologists are involved in assisting law enforcement agencies but on different levels. Criminal psychologists always try to profile a suspect and find motive or reason for committing the crime. Forensic psychologists, on the other hand, work with a more diverse kind of group which may include the offender`s the victims, families, witnesses and the advocates involved.
Both the forensic and criminal psychologists occasionally work fulltime for law enforcement agencies and provide routine counseling and guidance after a crises or hostage situations. The forensic psychologists help rehabilitate through therapy and other post counseling services. They are also mainly responsible for performing evaluations to determine whether a suspect is competent to stand trial and or may testify in a court of law; this is a task that can also be carried out by criminal psychologists. Additionally, the forensic psychologists are involved in helping respective attorneys with jury selection or witness preparation and may also be charged with the duty of interviewing witnesses and victims, this is especially if they are sensitive cases such as crimes committed against women or children.
In principle, both the criminal and forensic psychologists work for law enforcement agencies or in correctional facilities.
Differences between criminal psychology and forensic psychology
Criminal and forensic psychologies are important disciplines in the field of psychology. They are a vital part of investigations and solving of crimes. However, despite their similarities, the role of a criminal psychologist differs greatly from that of a forensic psychologist. Criminal psychologists work on the crime attempting to decipher the profile of the criminal such as habits, age, gender, where the criminal comes from among others. Moreover, from the data collected in a crime scene and the profiling of criminals, criminal psychologists are able to understand the motive behind a certain crime. Forensic psychologists on the other hand function to understand the consequence of a crime on the victims. They also evaluate the state of mind of the perpetrator of the crime. Unlike criminal psychologists, they do not focus on the motivating factor of the crime.
Criminal psychologists tend to focus on the mind of the criminal trying to understand how they think and why they do what they do. From this understanding, they are able to predict the steps the offender will take after he commits the crime thus creating a criminal profile. This information will assist law enforcement officers have a specific field of interest while they are solving the crime. On the other hand, forensic psychology focuses on the state of mind of the victims and the offenders. Through psychological analysis of the offender, the forensic psychologist is able to tell whether or not the offender is able to endure a trial proceeding. Additionally, he or she is able to tell whether the offender should be incarcerated or confined in a mental institution. The forensic psychologist also infers whether or not an offender is fit to be reintroduced to society. This is can be inferred by doing frequent psychological evaluations of the offender while he is still incarcerated. With regards to the victims, the forensic psychologist offers them psychological assistance to deal with a crime committed against them. They attempt to deal with the feelings of anxiety, fear, stress, depression and post-traumatic stress.
Criminal psychologist studies the character of known offenders by studying their case files to sketch and identify patterns that may be used to sketch the profiles of the offenders. The most typically predicted factors by the psychologists include; age background personality habits and even the neighborhood they are most likely to live. This is in contrast to a forensic psychologist who tries to evaluate the civil litigants in his case in a variety of ways some of which are:
' Listening to a litigant`s side of the story or deposition and try to look for both verbal and non-verbal cues of deception.
' Evaluate the mental capacity of the litigant in question based on his assessment of the litigants capability to reason
' The ability to have consistent and reasonable values and goals
' Ability of the litigant to appreciate the circumstance he or she is in
' Level of understanding of the litigant of the situation he or she is in
' Ability of the litigant to communicate the choices in a manner to be considered as rational
A forensic psychologist will first perform a (pre-trial) or release evaluation or examination of the litigant in question which involves gathering as much background information about the victim or litigant and thus have an idea or the notion of knowing the victim or litigant. This will help him or her have a base as to which they will compare the litigants or victims testimony in their statements. This extensive amount of data about the investigated party is then compared against data on other criminals and persons of the same age and gender. This is In contrast to criminal psychology. This mainly involves or will always tend to link an offender's actions to the site of the crime perpetrated to their most probable character to assist the investigators have a sizable size or pool of probable offenders by narrowing them down using the profiling of the criminal psychologist.
Forensic psychologists work with a large array of people. These range from the offenders, to the victims, the law enforcement officers and the lawyers involved in the criminal cases. However, criminal psychologists mainly focus on the criminals and the law enforcement officers. Through their evaluation, they are able to create a criminal profile from which the law enforcement officers can identify the perpetrators of a certain crime. However, when they are required to testify in court, criminal psychologists occasionally work with lawyers.
Forensic psychologists may work on a case to case basis whereby once a case has been closed, he no longer interacts with the victims or offenders involved in the crime. He may also work continuously with the offenders and victims, counselling them and evaluating their state of mind. This is different from the criminal psychologists who continuously review their cases. They do this while working on other cases or while researching in order to create accurate criminal profiles.
Criminal psychologists often work full time in law enforcement institutions such as police stations. They also work as consultants to these institutions where they offer their services in the solving of crimes. In addition, they can work as researchers whereby they evaluate old cases and create criminal profiles for offenders of each crime. This helps law enforcement officers to comprehend the modulus operandi of a criminal. Thence, there is easier identification of crimes which have been committed by the same person. Forensic psychologists also work in law enforcement institutions though not full time. However, due to the nature of their work, they mostly work as consultants or in universities where they teach forensic psychology. They also do research on the psychological state of offenders of different crimes and the effects of these crimes on the victims.
Criminal psychologists often hail from a background of law enforcement rather than that of psychology. Few of those who study criminal psychology chose it as a degree course. Most are law enforcement officers or lawyers who, from frequent dealings with criminals, wanted to understand them, how they work and why they do what they do. On the other hand, forensic psychologists usually hail from a background of psychology. Having studied general psychology where they deal with everyone, they later specialize in forensic psychology where they deal solely with offenders and victims of crimes.
Citing the discussion above, it is evident that forensic psychology and criminal psychology are two closely associated fields, and both play a crucial part in the justice system. Even though there are similarities between the two, each field attends to its own unparalleled objective. Criminal psychology, for instance, is majorly incorporated in analyzing the possible reasons that prod a criminal to commit a crime. It focuses its lens primarily on the criminal`s motivations. Forensic psychology, on the other hand, concerns itself with the other side of this equation. It analyses the possible effects that a crime might psychologically bear upon the victims. Moreover, forensic psychology examines the mental state of the wrongdoer. But it places less emphasis on the possible motivations behind the crime.
As opposed to forensic psychologists, criminal psychologists spend a great deal of time in building a criminal profile. This is facilitated by their quest in attempting to comprehend the thoughts that take place within a criminal`s mind. Owing to this, criminal psychologists are capable of making predictions on the purposes of the criminal as well as their reactions to their crimes. Their role is fundamental in an investigation since with the aid of the criminal profiles, they can be of immense assistance to investigators during an investigation. Furthermore, criminal psychologists, can also take part in court proceeding. In some instances they can take up the roles of witnesses and they can testify about the state of mind of the criminal. In opposition, forensic psychologists ascertain if the mentally stable to stand trial.
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