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Study on criminal and social psychological analysis as applicable to the criminal justice profession. Major issues addressed include theoretical issues, social psychology and the law, the offender''s decision and the victim''s decision to report crime.

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Psychology when applied in social aspects covers a wide range of issues which are directly connected to superstructures, institution and also human behavior and their responses. People’s subjective perceptions in the respect of justice is studied by social psychologists and the knowledge acquired from the just is reflected in the practice of social justice profession. The contribution of psychology in crime and socio-legal studies can be put in a single narrative framework with the help of a number of theoretical understanding and studying real life cases. This study examines the application of criminal justice profession in the light of criminology and social psychology. It also digs in deeper to understand the human behavior as both the victim and the offender with a point of view of the justice system.

Criminology can be defined as the study of crime, causes of crime and preventive methods of crime. It focuses on the various aspects related to injustice, law enforcements and individual behavior. This discipline is closely related to social psychology, philosophy and law as it involves a good understanding of individual differences in perception, laws and policies related to the crime and needs to create a pattern which denotes psychological behavior of humans as both victims and offenders.

CASE STUDY:  A 36-year-old black male, DV, was found with firearms and was charged for the same. While formal interrogation, he was uncooperative in the initial stages as he pretended like he was unable to understand the questions. After observation and some psychological tests, it was concluded that he was pretending to have mental illness and auditory hallucination in order to get sympathy of the jurisdiction. His responses to psychological testing were persistent with someone aiming to put on psychotic mental illness (McCoy &Edens, 2006). 

DV had been arrested throughout his adolescence and adulthood for around 20 times. He also used and sold illicit drugs which eventually became a main source of his income. 

Discussing Social Psychology

According to Bonta& Andrews (2016), social psychology is the scientific field that seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual behaviour in social situations. The field of social psychology is having an increased influence on how people think about human behaviour. It is also a study of dynamic relationship of individuals and the people around those individuals. By seeking the understanding of individual behaviour, thoughts and feelings in a social situation, it also tries to co-relate how and why a person behaves in a particular way while trying to predict the action of an individual.

Key concepts related to social psychology

Social Psychology is one of the significant ways through which psychologists and individual who are part of the judiciary system are able to understand how the social perception of people affect their behavior and responses to certain events. As mentioned by Reber&Osbeck (2005), there are a number of key concepts that helps in understanding this relation. 

Goal oriented social behavior

The desire of an individual of fulfilling the social and personal needs mostly determines the way people behave and respond to actions and words. Common needs and goals include, acquiring a social status, being recognized for the work done and get rid of negative thoughts, have someone to care for and also at times revenge. 

Social situation: A key factor

This specific concept is two layered where it is observed that individual response to words and actions as per their situation which existed in their past. It is often found that past actually shapes the social perception of individuals and also the way by which their perceive reality; thus it is quite obvious that when it comes to dealing with certain words and actions people are likely to respond according to their socially built perception. Reber&Osbeck (2005), opines that the second layer is about the way people form the self-construct and social comparison process where peer pressure is highly considered in observing the behavior of individuals.

Outcome is determined on the basis of the interaction between situation and individuals

It is not necessary that every time an individual has to behave in a specific way even after being placed in a situation which varies. It is often observed that individual responds and behaves differently in different situations which include the difference in their mood, social context, environment and also the behaviour of people on the other side. Thus, it is important to note that in order to understand the action and behaviour of people fully, having the knowledge of their characteristics, situation and the context on the basis of which they behave requires consideration ( 2019). For example, a person might behave with a very outgoing approach when given a specific responsibility of leadership on the other hand behaves entirely with a different approach when alone. 

Individuals tend to explain and analyse the behavior of people who surrounds them

Social experiments have proven that individuals do not in general look for unexpected attributes. They try to find common belief and attributes in people they meet which match their beliefs. Such approaches often lead to labeling and stereotyping. However, critics confirm that this is the most common human nature where some are able to act beyond this potential behavior and some cannot (Wetherell, 2015). 

The intervention of social psychology in criminology

In the late 19th century since the modern psychology emerged, researchers and psychologists have observed various aspects of crime and criminality (Petrosinoet al. 2000). While criminology the much used term explains the method and the way a crime took places which include biological aspects of the crime, criminal psychology explains and tries to dig in deeper by having knowledge of the thoughts, character, beliefs and motives of the criminal. Both criminology and criminal psychology helps in the case to help the victim get the justice and punish the offender as per the laws. It can be simply explained byanalyzing the fact that criminal psychology studies the behavior of the criminal based on the crime that has been committed by him which is explained through the aspects of criminology.  

It is of much significant to note in this juncture that theories have successfully explained the behavioral variance of offenders and the crime committed. In the recent forty years the study of criminology and criminal psychology has involved professional aspects where individuals have detailed knowledge about the patterns, methods and motives of crime and has formed a separate discipline. Noblet&LaMontagne (2009)mentions that it is also important to note that the impact of the legal aspects, local government frameworks and also the culture requires to be considered while publishing articles and news on psychology and crimes. 

Theoretical issues

-Bystander effect

The bystander effect is a social phenomenon which occurs when a greater number of people are present in a situation is less likely to help a person in anguish. Guéguenet al. (2015) commented that people are more likely to help a person in distress when there are few or no people to witness them. Social psychologists Bibb Latane and John Darley was the pioneer of this effect. In a case of Kitty Genovese murder in New York City, 1984, who was a 28-year-old woman, was stabbed to death outside her house and the neighbors failed to help or call the police. While investigation, every person was asked as to why they did not assist the poor woman, they replied saying that they thought someone else would help. Here, diffusion of responsibility took place and the bystanders thought that other people witnessing the crime would help out the victim. This event clearly suggests that crime investigation as a discipline itself include a number of constraints that comes from the social behavior and response of the people who are directly and indirectly related to the crime. 

-Social learning theory

In our society, children are surrounded by influential people like parents, family members, characters on the television, friends and teachers in school. People and especially children learn a lot just by observing the behaviors of others. This is known as social learning theory which was proposed by Alburt Bandura who conducted a famous experiment called the Bobo doll experiment. In this experiment Bandura made a short movie of a young girl hitting up and acting violently towards a bobo doll (inflatable balloon with weight in the bottom to bob back up when knocked down) and showed to groups of nursery school children. After making they watch the movie he then left them in a room with a bobo doll similar to the one shown in the movie. Many of the children immediately imitated the young girl in the movie and acted aggressively towards the bobo doll. According to Das&Choudhury (2016)This experiment proved that a person’s environment has a huge impact on their personality. It is safe to assume that if a person had an abusive past, he/she has a great probability of being an aggressive person or abusing someone else.

-Zimbaedo’s Prison experiment

This experiment is popularly known as the Stanford prison experiment where 24 young men were selected and randomly assigned to be guards and prisoners in a simulated prison environment.. The subjects received $15 per day to take part in the experiment. The experiment was conducted in a way that the subjects feel that everything was very real. The prisoners were arrested, all the participants were made to wear their respective uniforms and the prisoners were given numbers. On the second day of the experiment, the prisoners rebelled and guards punished the prisoners. Within four days of the experiment, 3 prisoners had to be released because they were traumatized. Some guards became cruel and extremely violent. Based on the understanding derived from the works of Haslam, Reicher& Van Bavel, (2019) it is evident that the experiment had to be terminated soon after. This became an ethical concern and highly prohibited. The authority given to the subjects who acted like guards made them tyrannical towards the prisoners and the guards treated the prisoners inhumanely. This experiment shows the power of authoritarianism and when provided with legitimating ideologies and social support people are more obedient and impressionable. 

-Cognitive Dissonance theory

This theory was given by Leon Festinger, which states that every individual seeks a balance in their thoughts or beliefs. If there is an inconsistency or misbalance in their opinions or behaviours, that dissonance has to be eradicated. Shuster& Campos-Castillo (2017) suggests that dissonance can be eliminated by reducing the power or importance of the dissonant thought or belief, change the dissonant belief or add consonant beliefs that cancel out the dissonant belief.

Social psychology and the laws

In a broader perspective, crime is nothing but a social phenomenon where an individual commit unjustified action against a single person or a group of people to fulfill his social needs and personal needs. This explanation is more inclined to the definition of criminology as suggested by Dantzker. On the other side, Nadler& Mueller (2017) commented that criminal justice is the scientific and practical application of criminal behavior. While the former is based on theoretical understanding, the later deals with practical implication and real life observation.

It is needless to mention that every legal aspect and proceedings depends on the most appropriate assumptions of events and human behavior and interaction on specific events and impact on social and mental process.  As suggested by Nadler& Mueller (2017), it is of much significance to note that social psychology is the key driver of the decision taken in the judiciary system against a crime as it involves the motive of the criminal, pattern of the crime, the statement of the victim and also the social context of the crime. Legislations and their impact depend on how much the crime committed is severe in nature. Certain challenges are faced by psychologists in decision making due to the law’s assumption. Girvan (2019) comments that these challenges are addressed with the help of certain process which include modern techniques of interrogation and presenting evidence which clearly states the event making it less complicated for the decision makers. 

Criminal behavior and its nature

There are a wide range of variables that determine the behaviour of a criminal which include the immediate environment, the cultural background, past events and also the way events have been perceived by the individual. Sociology, biology and social psychology are some of the discipline which explains the human behavior and the implication of the socio economic and socio-cultural aspects of human behavior. 

The biological theories considers individual to be more prone to criminal acts on the basis of their genes. It not only involves genes but psychophysiology, neurological and biochemistry. For example, it has found that individual whose biological parents have been criminal are likely to have committed crime more (Salakhovaet al. 2016). 

Social psychological theories on the other hand consider situational and dispositional aspects to be more significant in nature. It is of much significance to note that social psychological theories focuses more on the social forces which affects human behavior and actions. The immediate environment and the background play a significant role in determining the behavior of individuals. 

Sociological theories in fact, suggest that, financial situation, education and occupation and social status also influences human behavior. For example, it has been found that in many cases poverty has led individuals to commit crime (Salakhovaet al. 2016). And thus, these aspects have to be considered before placing statements in the legal aspects. 

The role of decision in reporting crime

When a crime is committed, the role of the criminal justice process becomes quite significant. When a specific unjustified action is committed by an individual against a person or a certain group it requires consideration. A decision of the victim of crime is the initiator of the entire criminal justice process. In the views of Knoth&Ruback (2019), it is clear that their decision to speak about the crime and provide details of the event which leads the investigators and professional to reach the offender and provide justice to the victim. It is needless to say that if the victim does not take the decision to report the crime to the police, the criminal justice system cannot start its function it has to stay inactive. The statement of the individual of being the victim of a crime initiates the entire function of the criminal justice system. 

One of the most significant aspects of interrogation which was neglected until the last forty years is the decision of the offenders. Experiments suggest that non-offenders tend to agree with interrogation more likely those offenders. The decision of the suspects in participating in the interrogation process also helps in the crime reporting as if offenders try to misguide the judiciary with information, subsequently will be caught and if they take the decision to surrender, the criminal case automatically reaches its conclusion. In such instance, social psychology plays a significant role in observing the motive of the offender’s behaviour. This aspect brings a whole new dimension to the criminal justice system as it includes complex mind reading instances and also involves professional tactics (Knoth&Ruback, 2019)


Criminology and crime psychology have same background but different ways of implication. Both aims to support the criminal justice system but have different approaches and focus on different aspects of a crime. It is important to note that criminology focuses on the patterns, motives and methods used to commit the crime, whereas, crime psychology focuses on the thoughts and beliefs of the criminal. This study aims to study the criminal behavior by analyzing the various aspects of both criminal psychology and criminology. It is evident from the study that human brain being one of the most complex things in the world behaves, response to words and events based on various internal and external factors. It is no wonder that the external factors are mostly covered by the socio-psychological aspects throws light on the response of individuals to certain external stimuli. Considering the internal fact, the biological theories determine the individual’s potential of committing crimes. In context to these assumptions and understanding it can be concluded that criminal behavior can be measured and is also subjected to prevention.   

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