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History of Criminal Profiling and Its Importance

Although criminal profiling as a scientifically based method is relatively young, the idea of identifying most likely offenders based on personality traits goes centuries back. In the Middle Ages, as well as the early Modern period, investigators used crude methods similar to profiling in intent to accuse certain people or groups of witchcraft and murder (Turvey, 2012). These methods had no scientific basis and were based on faith rather than reason. In the 19th century, Lombroso attempted to identify criminals based on the deformities in their appearance according to his understanding of anthropology rather than pure faith (Turvey, 2012).

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Yet, it was only in the 20th century when criminal profiling found a sound basis in psychology and data gathering. By 1960, Howard Teten arrived at the idea of using crime scene evidence to create the criminal psychological profile and tested it theoretically. Together with Patrick Mullany, they successfully applied it to a number of cases, including the murder of Susan Jaeger in 1973 (Ramsland, 2014). Since then, profiling became a legitimate investigative tool used in conjunction with others.

Understanding the history of criminal profiling is crucial to recognize its limitations as well as possible dangers. It demonstrates that, if not used in conjunction with other investigative methods and perceived deterministically, profiling may simply become a representation of social prejudice. Medieval tendencies to blame Jews for the disappearances of young white males or to assume representatives of other religions practiced witchcraft are vivid examples (Turvey, 2012).

Even the scientific basis is not a certain guarantee because Lombroso’s theory, while reflecting the prejudice against physically deformed, was based on the understanding of physical anthropology at the time (Turvey, 2012). As such, knowing the history of criminal profiling makes people aware of the necessity to distinguish between the psychological evaluation of evidence and social stereotypes.

References

Ramsland, K. (2014). Criminal profiling: How it all began. Psychology Today. Web.

Turvey, B. E. (2012). A history of criminal profiling. In Turvey B. E., (Ed.), Criminal profiling: An introduction to behavioral evidence analysis (4th ed., pp. 3-40). Elsevier.

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StudyCorgi. "History of Criminal Profiling and Its Importance." October 29, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/history-of-criminal-profiling-and-its-importance/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "History of Criminal Profiling and Its Importance." October 29, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/history-of-criminal-profiling-and-its-importance/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'History of Criminal Profiling and Its Importance'. 29 October.

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