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Psychology Dictionary

Announcing a New E Book:

PSYCHOLOGY DICTIONARY  by staff of ACS Distance Education 

1st edition published in 2012 by ACS Distance Education


Sample pages and outline at :

Media Review copies available on request from our Marketing Manager - email
The Following is an Extract from the book:

There are many different types of profile which might be undertaken depending on the nature of the profile required.  The rationale behind psychological profiling is that we can measure traits such as intelligence and then perhaps use that information to predict future and current behaviour.  But again, difficulties with this will be discussed later.  We will now discuss some of the different forms of psychological profiling:


This type of profiling may be used by a clinical or forensic psychologist.  It is also known as offender profiling and, as mentioned above, is sometimes simply known as psychological profiling (even though the final term covers a wider range of profiling other than just criminal behaviour). Forensic profiling has become popularised by the current genre of television programmes and books which make use of forensic profiling to find criminals.  However, most countries do not have specific units of psychologists working as offender profilers tracking down serial killers. Typically, a forensic or clinical psychologist will provide a written report to police, courts, or other authorities based on data gathered through various sources. This data may related to an offender in prison or one who is yet to be sentenced.  

Forensic profiling involves gathering information from various sources such as interview data, observations, psychological tests, and inventories. For instance, a forensic psychologist will interview a person to find out about their background in terms of education, upbringing, mental and physical health, culture, and so forth. They will also conduct a mini (or full) mental state examination (MSE) which provides an indication of their mental health state at the time of the interview. Whilst this is going on they will also be making observations of the person in terms of their speech, behaviour, body language, appearance, and so forth. All this information is brought together as part of the assessment. In addition, they may ask the person to undertake a personality test, intelligence test, or complete an inventory relating to a specific suspected disorder. All this information may be collated over a number of interviews.

Once tests have been scored and results finalised it is possible to write up a report giving an indication of the person's characteristics. These findings are compared to characteristics that would be expected in the general population, and hypotheses about criminality or abnormal behaviour may be inferred. For example, an individual might be diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder (formerly known as sociopathic personality, or psychopathic personality) and this information might be used to try and help explain why they behaved in a particular way to a court of law. It might also be used to give an indication as to the individual's likely tolerance level of a prison environment, their chances of rehabilitation, their likelihood of re-offending, and whether or not their behaviour was an aberration.

In this way, the forensic psychologist’s report, and their evidence as an expert witness in a court of law can influence whether an offender receives a prison sentence, the length of a sentence, whether an individual receives any therapy or ongoing psychological support, the types of interventions they may experience, and so forth.   

Personality Disorders
There are ten recognised personality disorders. Of these, psychopathic personality is probably the most well-known in relation to forensic profiling, given its widespread portrayal in mainstream films and literature.

"Psychopathy" is a term which was used to describe the specific psychopathic personality, and "psychopath" was used to describe a person with such characteristics (or indeed anyone with a pronounced mental disorder). However, whilst they may persist in popular fiction, films and media, these terms are rarely used in medical and legal terminology today. Instead the preferred term is "antisocial personality disorder".

Any personality disorder is shown when a person has:

  • An enduring pattern of thinking, behaving and feeling that is significantly different     from their culture and leads to negative consequences.
  • The pattern is longstanding and inflexible.
  • Begins during adolescence or early adulthood.
  • Causes distress or impairments to the individual
  • Is stable across time.
If you want to learn more about Psychology; see our range of psychology courses.
Our staff have over the years written a large range of book and ebooks, many of which are are available through our school's online book store.
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