The field of psychology continues to expand with its penetration into various sectors. Today, this field of study and investigation has branched out to various fields such as education, development, industries and the corporate world. It has also touched deep into the legal and judicial sector. Amongst these fields of psychology, two of them are often understood and characterised the same. These are forensic psychology and criminal psychology. There is quite a debating opinion about these two fields of psychology. For a long time, these two psychological fields were considered the same, however, they are completely different in meaning and functions. This has given rise to a series of differences which are termed under forensic psychology vs criminal psychology.
The differences inclusive in forensic psychology vs criminal psychology are in terms of meanings, sector of operations and scope. In this article, there will be a complete elucidation to the difference between forensic psychology and criminal psychology. There will also be a detailed explanation of the forensic psychology meaning and criminal psychology meaning. Further, this article will also attempt to investigate whether forensic psychology and criminal psychology are the same. Lastly, there will also be brief insights on the current operational trends in forensic psychology and criminal psychology.
Forensic Psychology – An Overview
The beginning and introduction of psychology began with the works of William Wundt. His works were the first seeds for psychology to bloom and penetrate into various sectors. The first instance for forensic psychology was recorded in 1901 through the works of psychologist William Stern. He specialised in determining the errors and accuracy of the witnesses, through his experiment on students who were asked to record a watched dispute. Prior to this, psychologists, Alfred Bient, Hugo Munsterberg and J.McKeen Catell, were already the explorers into this field of psychology. All of their works were centralised on witness testimony and credibility.
It was through the work of William Marston, who had developed the lie detector and brought a shift to the then evolution of forensic psychology. The lie detector was used to make out the potential witness or the culprit in a particular case. Since then, forensic psychology meaning has continuously changed. It is currently dominant into sectors, that is the legal sector and judicial sector. Forensic psychology pertains to the investigation and viewing situations based on legal and judicial prospects but through the psychological field. (1) It draws psychological conclusions based on legal matters and jurisdictions.
The field of forensic psychology is considered to be a branch of applied psychology. Applied psychology is a new modification to psychology that looks out on human interest issues. It investigates domains that are more connected towards human and animal behaviours. Forensic psychology is applied psychology because it tries to investigate human behaviour involved in legal and judicial matters. The field of forensic psychology also involves intrusion from other fields such as abnormal psychology, social psychology, clinical psychology and others.
The major functionings involved in forensic psychology include assessment, treatment and evaluation. It assesses the legal or judicial situation and the people involved in it. Further, once the assessment is completed, the next step is to treatment. The treatments or the suggestions in any legal or judicial proceedings are only proceed in case of psychological malfunctioning.
The evaluation is done in terms of the witnesses, victims and prosecutors’ way of involvement and their perception of the case. All these functions of forensic psychology are carried out by forensic psychologists. For each case in the legal and judicial domain, a forensic psychologist is appointed at various designated positions. However, the main goal of the forensic psychologists would be to analyse and determine if the causes are psychological.
To summarise, the prospects of forensic psychology are limited and only concerned with determining the psychological causes to a case or proceeding. This will include understanding the mental state of the accused, victim and determining witness credibility. Further, the field of forensic psychology is also involved in organising and curating correctional programs for any identified psychological deformities.
Criminal Psychology – An Overview
A recently developed field of psychology, criminal psychology gained its prominence only in the late 19th century. This field of psychology has widely emerged and is considered to be pioneered with the works of Hugo Musterberg. This German psychologist had provided his works which were inclined towards criminals’ prospects and activities. He is als considered to be the leading psychologist in pioneering forensic psychology, through witnesses investigation. Criminal psychology began in order to fulfil the prime goal of identifying criminal minds and reducing crime rates across the world. (2)
In criminal psychology, the tasks and actions are carried out by criminal psychologists. These entities can be at different positions of supervising and understanding the specific psychological cause for a crime. The major domain where criminal psychology stays active is the police sector and investigating sector. These two domains induce criminal psychology as a tool to understand any possible psychological cause towards a crime. A criminal psychologist will be involved in investigating how a criminal mind thinks, the possible mental illnesses and traumas, propagating a crime.
The major tasks involved in criminal psychology involve criminal analysis, offender profiling and interviewing. The task of criminal analysis is more focused towards understanding the accused’s behaviour towards a certain created situation. This situation to behave is highly hypothetical and replicated. It is only induced as per the victim’s statement about the event or creation of a similar crime scene. This is important to understand the accused’s state of mind while committing the crime. Further, it also helps in understanding whether the culprit was suffering from any mental illnesses or past traumas.
The task of offender profiling is yet to be recognised in the research and academic spheres. However, the most general meaning of offender profiling is the psychological portrait of the offender or accused. In this task, the prime goal of the criminal psychologist is to draw the psychological conclusions about the culprit. This is not necessarily done through the accused’s verdicts. It is also observed by the statements and reports of the victims. These psychological conclusions about the accused should also give answers to whether the crime was planned, intentional and gender of the accused.
The task of interviewing in criminal psychology involves investigating the offenders and witnesses. The main purpose of interviewing is to know the criminal situation and understand the psychology of both offender and victim. It is also required to determine any possible instance that would reflect on psychological illnesses. The interviewing requires the criminal psychologists to be very careful in asking the offender, victim or witness. If the victim is a child, then extra carefulness must be exhibited. These three tasks are essentially useful for the authorities to identify, and determine the punishment and compensation of the offenders and victims.
Criminal psychology is also a part of applied psychology. This is because the field of criminal psychology investigates human behaviour, and specifically of the offenders or the criminals. Also, this field of psychology takes help from other fields such as clinical psychology, abnormal psychology and others. These fields help in better and reliable understanding about why the crime has been committed.
In a nutshell, criminal psychology is the field of psychology that looks into the criminal sector specifically. It works and applies the methodologies to determine the reason behind a crime’s happenings and several psychological factors related to it. This sector in psychology, limits to only investigate and pertain to conclusions regarding crime.
Forensic Psychology vs Criminal Psychology
While the frequency of thoughts believe forensic psychology and criminal psychology to be the same, both these fields are different. Both forensic psychology and criminal psychology differ in terms of various aspects. These are elaborated through the below pointers:
The scope of forensic psychology is limited to investigations in the legal and judicial sector. This field of psychology will only look into knowing any psychological influence in legal and judicial domains. It does not go deep in investigating how the crime happened but it only tries to understand the psychological factor as its cause. This field has variety of cases ro cover such as child abuse, divorce, law enforcement, law officers recuriements and others.
Read also: 10 Forensic Psychology Sectors of Immersion
The scope of criminal psychology pertains to the investigation and findings in the criminals sector. It directly expands to the legal or the judicial domain. This field of psychology is only applicable if a crime has occured. The scope of criminal psychology is only to determine the criminal minds, the crime done and the aftermath of it on the victims. It only expands to investigating the entire situation based on criminal outcomes that are psychological.
Also Read: Criminal Psychology Jobs
The main functions of forensic psychology is to lead assessment, treatment and evaluation. The forensic psychology field only expands to assessing a case in legal or judicial prospect. After the assessment, the treatment or suggestion is given. This treatment or suggestion will be in terms of correctional programs or psychological proceedings. The evaluation function in forensic psychology concludes a case holistically. It evaluates a case psychologically based on the happenings and statements given.
The main functions of criminal psychology involved criminal analysis, offender profiling and interviewing. The function of criminal analysis involves understanding the accused or offender’s state of mind. This is done by replicating and putting the offender in the same situation, as narrated by the victim. The function of offender profiling demands for a psychological portrait of the accused after the complete investigation. This psychological portrait mainly deals with the identifying the nature of the offender and the mental illnesses or traumas that could potentially influence a criminal conviction. The function of interviewing pertains to investigating the victims, witnesses and the offenders. This interviewing is, however, done with utmost care to get reliable information about the crime.
Whole vs Segment
Forensic psychology is an entire, developed field of psychology. It not only investigates a legal and judicial domain psychologically, but also investigates other related domains. The reach of forensic psychology is through various organisations and it includes criminal cases, abuse cases, violence cases and more. It is an important field of psychology to determine and investigate all kinds of legal and judicial occurrences.
Criminal psychology is a part of forensic psychology. It is continuously growing as a new domain of psychology, however, it is born out of forensic psychology. In a simpler meaning, criminal psychology is an outgrown branch of forensic psychology. This field of psychology covers up investigating criminal cases psychologically, which is inclusive in forensic psychology also. This limits the scope of criminal psychology as it only exists in a criminal occurrence.
General vs Specific
Forensic psychology field is a generalized field in terms of legal and judicial aspects. This field of psychological application is accessible to every sphere of cases under the legal and judicial domains. Moreover, its functions are holistic in nature and they assess, suggest and evaluate the cases. Forensic psychology covers up various issues that require psychological attention, in legal and judicial sectors. It also has the access to testing the witness credibility completely and in all kinds of cases.
Criminal psychology is only specific to one field of study. It is only effective and applicable in the field of study that involves criminal instances. If a case has no criminal tangent to it, this field of psychology does not stand a chance to be applied. Criminal psychology only investigates cases that are crime specific. It only determines the criminal minds, how they think and their psychological nature. This field also expands limitedly to identify the victim’s psychological field and witnesses credibility.
Differentiated Educational Requirements
For forensic psychology, the educational qualifications and requirements are more induced towards law, and legal applications of psychology. To find a career in forensic psychology, the minimum educational qualification should be a graduate degree in forensic psychology. The studying parameters in forensic psychology would include statistical methodologies, social sciences, legal studies and judicial procedures.
For criminal psychology, the educational requirements are more inclined in studying and investigating the criminal justice system. The educational requirements for this field of psychology include knowledge about criminal minds, substance abuse forms, behavioural patterns and adult/adolescent psychology. This particular field of psychology is essential for having a strong interpretation and implementation of the functions practically.
These are the differences between forensic psychology and criminal psychology. The debate between forensic psychology vs criminal psychology is a never ending process. Some call it to be the same, while other sides of the opinion treat it as different terms and fields. However, to summarize, both forensic psychology and criminal psychology function and extend to different horizons of scopes.
The above article takes a complete take on the topic of forensic psychology vs criminal psychology. The article has a complete elucidation on the details regarding forensic psychology and criminal psychology. The article speaks on the history, scope and functioning of these two fields of psychology. Further, there is also a complete description on the different fields of psychology that backup forensic and criminal psychology.
This article also draws a complete differentiation between forensic psychology and criminal psychology. The broad areas of differences between forensic psychology and criminal psychology are:
- Whole vs Segment
- General vs Specific
- Differentiated Educational Requirements
Commonly Asked FAQs
- What is forensic psychology?
Forensic psychology pertains to the investigation and viewing situations based on legal and judicial prospects but through the psychological field. It draws psychological conclusions based on legal matters and jurisdictions.
- Is forensic psychology applied psychology?
Forensic psychology is applied psychology. This is because forensic psychology focuses on investigativ human matters and behaviours in terms of legal and judicial domains. It also takes help from social psychology, abnormal psychology and clinical psychology.
- What is criminal psychology?
In criminal psychology, the tasks and actions are carried out by criminal psychologists. These entities can be at different positions of supervising and understanding the specific psychological cause for a crime. The major domain where criminal psychology stays active is the police sector and investigating sector. These two domains induce criminal psychology as a tool to understand any possible psychological cause towards a crime.
- What is the scope of forensic psychology?
The scope of forensic psychology includes psychological investigation into legal and judicial domains. This includes assessment, treatment and evaluation of the cases psychologically in legal and judicial proceedings.
- What is the scope of criminal psychology?
The scope of criminal psychology expands to criminal proceedings. It deals in understanding the criminal mindset and the possible psychological causes for any criminal occurrences.