Forensic Psychology

By Johnny Ackley


With psycho-killers often being serial killers, it is to no surprise that the development of forensic psychology has also played a role in this movie genre.  Criminal profilers or natural insights from criminologists often appear in these movies (Byrne, 1998).  The best example of this would be The Silence of The Lambs.


In the Silence of The Lambs the main protagonist is an investigator and she is joined by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit to go and interview incarcerated serial killers.  The Behavioral Science Unit is a real department of the FBI and these events are directly based off the real life events of criminal profiler John Douglas (Douglas & Olshaker, 1996).  He did in fact go to prisons and conduct interviews with serial killers and through this method of investigation he helped developed what is now known as criminal profiling (Douglas & Olshaker, 1996).

When profilers appear in movies, the movie may seem like they are exaggerating the abilities of the profilers to the point of it seeming like pure fiction. However there have been some remarkable predictions made by profilers that have come true. For example, the Trailside Killer case took place in San Francisco in 1979 through 1980 (Douglas, 2003). The victims were six women and two men all attacked from behind in very wooded and secluded areas. FBI profiler John Douglas investigated the crime scenes and meticulously developed a profile of the offender. While his profiled outlined many common characteristics such as race, gender, and age, John Douglas also gave a very unique and atypical characteristic of the offender. Because the offender chose such secluded locations near a park then the profiler believed their must be some form of an impairment the offender must have. However the disability couldn’t be truly physical because the style of attack was very physically demanding and it couldn’t be something aesthetic because the no one mentioned someone odd-looking in the parks those days. Instead it must have been something emotionally troubling to the offender, but not something completely obvious. John Douglas believed that the offender would have a speech impairment such as a stutter, and sure enough when the suspect was arrested, he had a strong stutter (Douglas, 2003).

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