module specification

PY7001 - Psychology and Criminal Behaviour (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18, but may be subject to modification
Module title Psychology and Criminal Behaviour
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 200
146 hours Guided independent study
54 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Open Book Examination 100%   Unseen Open Book Examination *FC*
Running in 2017/18 No instances running in the year

Module summary

N.B. from 2012-13 this module will be taight at the Holloway Road building.


This module provides students with core knowledge and understanding of the use of key theories of criminal behaviour and the definitions and measurement of offending behaviours, from forensic psychology perspectives.

Prior learning requirements


Module aims

The main aim of this module is to provide students with core knowledge and understanding of approaches to explaining criminal behaviour and its impact upon individuals and society. More specifically, the aims are:
• To provide an overview of the measurement of crime and factors influencing the degree of error in this measurement;
• To provide an account of psychological factors that are related to or help to explain crime at both a general level and in terms of specific offences (e.g., arson) and specific offender groups (e.g., juveniles);
• To evaluate the contribution of psychology to the explanation of criminal behaviour relative to and in interaction with explanatory frameworks and factors derived from other disciplines.
• To provide a brief introduction to victimology.


The syllabus will include coverage of topics such as those listed below.
• Definitions and measurement of crime; Impact of variations in crime figures on the development of theories of criminal behaviour and the development of crime prevention policy;
• Explanations of general criminal behaviour from a psychological perspective (e.g., social development, moral reasoning, intelligence, personality, mental health, parenting styles, maternal deprivation, neuropsychology etc);
• Explanations of general criminal behaviour from non-psychology or multi-disciplinary perspectives;
• Explanations of criminality in specific offender groups (e.g., the personality disordered);
• Explanations of particular types of offending (e.g., violent offending);
• Fear of crime and victims of crime.

Learning and teaching

The learning and teaching methods for this Module consist of a combination of Lectures, Student Seminars and Workshops.
Lectures and Student Seminars (topics prepared by a sub-group of the cohort and subsequently presented to the rest of their peers facilitated by a member of staff) will be used to deliver core material to students and will contribute to both guided and independent reading and learning by students.
Workshops (a combination of discussion and exercises) will provide an opportunity for students to seek clarification and expansion on topics covered in the lectures and student seminars. Workshops and Student Seminars will require preparatory work from students and will have a semi-structured format to ensure some standardisation but allowing for variation in student input and questions. At the end of the module, students will be asked to provide a written reflection about how the module allow them to develop skills in terms of time management, scientific writing, communication, and working under pressure. Furthermore, students are also asked to reflect about how psychological theories of crime enabled them to gain a critical view of offending behaviour and how they think they could apply such knowledge in applied settings.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:
1. Discuss different definitions of crime and different methods for assessing the rate and prevalence of crime;
2. Critically evaluate psychological factors in the explanation of criminal behaviour;
3. Present and evaluate explanations of criminality in different groups of offenders (e.g., juveniles, women, the elderly) or in particular types of offending (e.g., violent, sexual, serial, terrorist, etc.);
4. Outline the impact of criminal behaviour on victims and potential victims of crime.

Assessment strategy

The assessment for this module comprises an open book exam (100%).

The aim of the examination is to test breadth of knowledge from Learning Outcomes 1, 2, 3 and 4. Students might, for example, be asked to outline the factors producing what is known as the ‘dark figure of crime’ (Learning Outcome 1). Alternatively, students might be invited to briefly discuss any one theoretical account of terrorism (Learning Outcome 3). There will be a total of six questions on the examination paper. Students will have three hours to answer three of these questions.


Core text book:
G. J. Towl& D. A. Crighton (Eds.) (2010). Forensic Psychology. Oxford: BPS Blackwell

1. Andrews, D.A. and Bonta. J.L (2003).The Psychology of Criminal Conduct (3rd Edition). Cincinnati: Anderson.
2. Blackburn, R. (1996). The psychology of criminal conduct: theory, research and practice. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.
3. Boon, J. and Sheridan, L  (2002).Stalking and psychosexual obsession psychological perspectives for prevention, policing, and treatment. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.
4. Castelli, P., Goodman, G. S., Edelstein, R. S., Mitchell, E. B., Paz Alonzo, P. M., Lyons, K. E., & Newton, J. W. (2006). Evaluating eyewitness testimony in adults and children. In I. B. Weiner & A. K. Hes (Eds.).
5. Davies, R. C., Lurigio, A. J. &Skogan, W. G. (Eds.) (1997). Victims of crime (2nd edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
6. Evans, C., Ehlers, A., Mezey, G., & Clarke, D. M. (2007). Intrusive memories and ruminations related to violent crime in young offenders: Phenomenological characteristics. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 20 (2), 183-196.
7. Glicksohn, J. (2002). The Neurobiology of Criminal Behaviour. London.Kluwer Academic Press.
8. Graham-Berman, S.A and Edleson, J.L. (Eds) (2001).Domesticviolence in the lives of children. Washington: American PsychologicalAssociation.
9. Hodgins, S. (2000) Violence Crime and Mentally Disordered Offenders, Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.
10. Hollin, C., Browne, D. & Palmer, E. (2002).Delinquency and young offenders. Oxford: BPS Blackwell.
11. Maguire, M., Morgan, R. & Reiner, R. (2002) The Oxford handbook ofcriminology (3rd edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
12. Needs, A. and Towl, G (2004). Applying Psychology to ForensicPractice. Oxford: BPS Blackwell.