The Criminal Mind

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
13 February 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

In many crime dramas, both contemporary and classic, psychology is often depicted as providing the key to solving the case. From criminal profiling techniques that unlock the secrets of offenders to quick, on the fly assessments that allow investigators to connect behaviour and criminal activity. Psychology also provides novel insights into how guilt is determined both in the courtroom, and also in wider society. In this module we will explore questions such as: What can psychology really contribute to forensics and solving crimes? What factors influence the accuracy of eyewitness accounts? How do we determine responsibility? How does society treat offenders and victims? Is it really possible to tell whether someone is lying? How do psychopathic traits link to criminal behaviour? Are some people hard-wired to become criminals? Or does criminality develop as we grow, and how might we prevent this? What psychological processes are involved in cybercrime, and how do these differ from other crimes? From profiling to investigative strategies, to real-life case studies, this module offers a captivating journey into the psychology underlying criminal behaviour and legal responsibility.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To enable students to understand and explain the role psychological research plays in “criminal behaviour”. How can psychology help understand why criminal behaviour takes place and how it manifests in different individuals?

  • To allow students to understand the role of psychological processes in the courtroom, as well as in how society treats criminals and victims.

  • To enable students to understand how psychologists from Essex can apply their research in forensic contexts.

  • To introduce students to a range of different research and the contributions it can make to the discipline of “forensic psychology”.

  • To provide students with the opportunity to review existing evidence from a variety of different psychology disciplines and explore how this knowledge can be useful to understand the criminal mind.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Develop a systematic understanding of empirical research relating to issues in forensic psychology.

  2. Demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge from different disciplines in psychology to provide answers as to why criminal behaviour occurs and how it can manifest in different individuals.

  3. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the relationships between empirical evidence, and the use of that evidence in the real-world situations within the forensic context.

Module information

Syllabus information

The module’s precise content will vary from year to year, but the following information gives a description of the typical structure: Lectures will be focused on introducing key research questions before outlining how answers to these questions have contributed to addressing questions in the forensic context. For each topic, students will be introduced to relevant background literature and typical research methodologies to help form a thorough understanding of how this knowledge can be applied. Crucially, over the course of this module, students will train this skill and thus the module will help students draw links between a variety of research that they’ve previously been introduced to and the benefit this research delivers to an applied context.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • 10 lectures

Lectures will be focused on answering questions from different psychology fields in the context of forensic psychology. Each question will be addressed by providing background knowledge of the research area before focusing in on specific research findings and how this knowledge has been used in practice (or has the potential to be used in practice).

Students will be encouraged to participate in lectures though discussion groups, asking questions, and also through the use of digital interactive platforms. This will ensure that the learning environment is inclusive for all students. Colour and font on slides will be in line with best practice to help those who are visually impaired.

Discussion forums on Moodle will provide an additional platform for students to seek additional support and to identify areas that need further explanation. It is hoped that external expertise can be brought in each year to provide students with information from professionals who work in the forensic context.



Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Class Test    100% 
Exam  Main exam: In-Person, Open Book (Restricted), 120 minutes during January 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: In-Person, Open Book (Restricted), 120 minutes during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
30% 70%


Coursework Exam
0% 100%
Module supervisor and teaching staff



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.