Behavioral Science

Behavioral science in law enforcement encompasses the study of human behavior to understand, predict, and influence criminal activity and improve police practices. It integrates psychology, sociology, criminology, and anthropology to analyze the behavior of individuals and groups, providing valuable insights for criminal investigations, interrogation techniques, and crime prevention strategies.

Key Areas of Behavioral Science in Law Enforcement

1. Criminal Profiling: Criminal profiling involves analyzing the behavior and characteristics of criminals to predict and identify offenders. Profilers examine crime scenes, victimology, and modus operandi to develop profiles that aid in investigations.

2. Psychological Evaluation: Psychological assessments of suspects, witnesses, and victims help determine mental states, competency, and credibility. These evaluations can influence interrogation approaches and legal proceedings.

3. Interrogation Techniques: Behavioral science informs the development of effective interrogation strategies, emphasizing psychological principles to elicit truthful information and confessions while avoiding coercive methods.

4. Crisis Negotiation: Behavioral experts assist in negotiating with individuals in high-stress situations, such as hostage crises or barricade incidents, using psychological tactics to de-escalate tensions and achieve peaceful resolutions.

5. Victimology: The study of victims and their interactions with criminals helps law enforcement understand the dynamics of criminal behavior, risk factors, and preventive measures.

6. Community Policing: Behavioral science supports community policing initiatives by fostering positive relationships between law enforcement and communities, improving trust and cooperation to enhance public safety.

7. Threat Assessment: Analyzing behaviors and communications of individuals who may pose threats allows law enforcement to prevent violent acts through early intervention and risk management strategies.

8. Behavioral Analysis of Cybercrime: Understanding the behaviors and motivations of cybercriminals aids in developing strategies to prevent and investigate cybercrimes, from hacking to online fraud.

Recommended Books on Behavioral Science

  1. “Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis” by Brent E. Turvey
  2. “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit” by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker
  3. “The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime” by Adrian Raine
  4. “The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence” by Gavin de Becker
  5. “Inside the Criminal Mind” by Stanton E. Samenow
  6. “Forensic Psychology: Crime, Justice, Law, Interventions” by David A. Crighton and Graham J. Towl
  7. “The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience” by Kent A. Kiehl
  8. “The Behavioral Science of Firearms: A Mental Health Perspective on Guns, Suicide, and Violence” by Cameron S. Stauth
  9. “Behavioral Evidence Analysis: International Forensic Practice and Protocols” edited by Brent E. Turvey
  10. “Criminal Shadows: Inside the Mind of the Serial Killer” by David Canter

Notable Behavioral Science Datasets

  1. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS): A large-scale survey collecting data on behavioral risk factors among adults in the U.S.
  2. National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS): Collects data on personal and household victimization to understand crime trends.
  3. Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR): FBI’s database on crime statistics, useful for analyzing criminal behavior patterns.
  4. Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC): Provides genetic data relevant to understanding the biological aspects of behavior.
  5. Add Health (National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health): Tracks the development and behavior of adolescents into adulthood.
  6. General Social Survey (GSS): Collects data on societal trends and behaviors in the U.S.
  7. European Social Survey (ESS): A cross-national survey on societal attitudes, beliefs, and behavior patterns in Europe.
  8. National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY): Studies the labor market behavior and other life events of several cohorts of young people.
  9. International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS): Provides data on crime and victimization worldwide.
  10. Human Connectome Project: Provides neuroimaging data to understand the neural networks related to behavior.

Prominent Scientists in Behavioral Science Research

  1. John E. Douglas: A pioneer in criminal profiling and behavioral analysis in the FBI.
  2. David Canter: Known for his work in investigative psychology and offender profiling.
  3. Adrian Raine: A leading researcher on the biological and genetic bases of criminal behavior.
  4. Gavin de Becker: An expert in predicting and managing violence.
  5. Stanton E. Samenow: Renowned for his work on the criminal mind and behavioral patterns.
  6. Paul Ekman: A psychologist famous for his research on emotions and facial expressions.
  7. Katherine Ramsland: A criminologist and expert in forensic psychology.
  8. David A. Crighton: Known for his contributions to forensic psychology.
  9. Kent A. Kiehl: A neuroscientist studying the brain patterns of psychopaths.
  10. Brent E. Turvey: An influential figure in behavioral evidence analysis and criminal profiling.
  11. Steven Pinker: A cognitive psychologist who has written extensively on human behavior and violence.
  12. Elizabeth Loftus: An expert in memory and its implications for eyewitness testimony.
  13. Robert Hare: Known for his research on psychopathy.
  14. David P. Farrington: A criminologist focused on developmental and life-course criminology.
  15. Albert Bandura: His work on social learning theory has been influential in understanding aggressive behavior.
  16. Daniel Kahneman: A psychologist whose research on decision-making has implications for understanding criminal behavior.
  17. Philip Zimbardo: Known for his work on situational influences on behavior, including the Stanford prison experiment.
  18. Lawrence Sherman: A criminologist specializing in evidence-based policing.
  19. Erving Goffman: His work on social interaction and the presentation of self is relevant to understanding behavior in social contexts.
  20. Edwin Sutherland: A criminologist known for his theory of differential association.

Breakthrough Papers in Behavioral Science Research

  1. “A Study of Prisoners and Guards in a Simulated Prison” by Philip Zimbardo (1973): The Stanford prison experiment demonstrated the power of situational influences on behavior. Journal: International Journal of Criminology and Penology.
  2. “Criminal Profiling: The Original Mindhunter” by John E. Douglas (1986): Discusses the development and application of criminal profiling in the FBI. Journal: Behavioral Sciences & the Law.
  3. “The Influence of Genetics on Crime” by Adrian Raine (2002): Explores the biological bases of criminal behavior. Journal: Annual Review of Psychology.
  4. “Social Learning and Personality Development” by Albert Bandura (1963): Discusses how aggressive behavior is learned through observation and imitation. Journal: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
  5. “False Memories and the Law: Battling the Myth” by Elizabeth Loftus (1993): Examines the reliability of eyewitness testimony and the phenomenon of false memories. Journal: Science.
  6. “The Psychopathy Checklist: Development and Validation” by Robert Hare (1985): Introduces a tool for assessing psychopathic traits. Journal: Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
  7. “Differential Association Theory” by Edwin Sutherland (1939): Proposes that criminal behavior is learned through interactions with others. Journal: The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.
  8. “The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence” by Gavin de Becker (1997): Highlights the importance of intuition and behavioral cues in predicting violence. Journal: Random House.
  9. “Behavioral Evidence Analysis: An Empirical Approach to Criminal Profiling” by Brent E. Turvey (1999): Outlines a scientific method for criminal profiling. Journal: Forensic Science International.
  10. “Predicting Violent Behavior: What Can Neuroscience Add?” by Kent A. Kiehl (2009): Discusses the role of neuroscience in understanding and predicting violent behavior. Journal: Annual Review of Law and Social Science.

Recommended Courses in Behavioral Science and Law Enforcement

  1. Behavioral Science for Law Enforcement – National Institute of Justice
  2. Criminal Profiling and Behavioral Analysis – FBI Behavioral Science Unit
  3. Forensic Psychology and Criminal Behavior – University of Leicester
  4. Advanced Criminal Profiling Techniques – John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  5. Behavioral Evidence Analysis – Forensic Criminology Institute
  6. Psychological Evaluations in Law Enforcement – American Psychological Association (APA)
  7. Crisis Negotiation and Hostage Management – National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA)
  8. Victimology and Crime Prevention – International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
  9. Community Policing Strategies – George Washington University
  10. Threat Assessment and Risk Management – University of Maryland
  11. Behavioral Analysis in Cybercrime – Stanford University
  12. Behavioral Science and the Legal System – Harvard Law School
  13. Neuroscience and Criminal Behavior – University of Pennsylvania
  14. Social Psychology and Law Enforcement – University of Texas at Austin
  15. The Psychology of Criminal Conduct – Carleton University
  16. Investigative Interviewing Techniques – University of Portsmouth
  17. Advanced Forensic Psychology – University of Denver
  18. Behavioral Analysis for Terrorism Prevention – Georgetown University
  19. Mental Health and Policing – Rutgers University
  20. Decision Making in High-Stakes Environments – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Behavioral science plays a crucial role in law enforcement by providing a deeper understanding of criminal behavior and enhancing investigative and preventive strategies. The resources listed above, including influential books, notable datasets, leading scientists, breakthrough papers, and recommended courses, offer a comprehensive guide for anyone interested in the application of behavioral science in law enforcement. By leveraging these insights, law enforcement professionals can improve their effectiveness in various aspects of their duties, from criminal profiling to community policing.