Criminal Psychology

Examine how psychology plays a fundamental role in the study of crime, crime prevention, criminal behavior, and criminal justice.

Criminology exposes often under-examined aspects of society. By analyzing the underlying motivators of criminal behavior, psychologists can play a crucial role in reorienting our laws, policies, and institutions towards a more just society. In this course, consider how biological predisposition, childhood experiences, use of illicit substances, socialization, and education level are all factors that may influence criminal acts. Debate foundational questions like: What makes a white-collar criminal different from a radicalized extremist? Learn from working psychologists to understand the criminology theories of strain, rational choice, and social control in order to uncover the motivations behind criminal behavior. Consider the psychological commonalities between those who commit crimes, profiling practices used in law enforcement, and discover how different types of crimes correlate to various personality traits and socioeconomic backgrounds. Investigate both the original intent and actual impact of certain crime reduction tactics and their disproportionate effect on marginalized communities. Apply what you’ve learned to case studies of incarcerated individuals and examine the consequences of various theories of justice such as punitive and restorative practices.

Students will not be allowed to enroll in both the Criminal Psychology course and the Criminal Psychology elective.

All student will be required to bring a laptop.

Who Should Take This Course?

This course is ideal for students who are curious about the psychological underpinnings of criminal behavior. It’s your opportunity to hone your investigative skills while you work alongside criminal psychologists to identify causes of criminal behavior and develop a plan to decrease crime. This course is ideal for students who have an interest in criminal studies, psychology, and forensics.

Advisors + Past Speakers

  • Saul Kassin, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter, Psychologist
  • Dr. Marvin Chun, Dean of Yale College, and Professor of Psychology, Yale School of Medicine
  • Dr. Casey Jordan, Criminologist, TV Commentator + Attorney
  • Dr. Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology + Cognitive Science, Yale University
  • Joseph Wippl, Former CIA Officer + Professor of the Practice of International Relations, Boston University
  • Matthew Steiner, First Grade Detective, Crime Scene Unit, New York City Police Department

Plan your summer


Course Highlights

  • Criminal Profiling

    Following the steps of the FBI criminal profiling techniques, you will be asked to use offender case studies to create a criminal profile and determine the most likely perpetrator of certain crimes. Present your profile and participate in a critique with other criminal psychologists.

  • Victimology

    Study theories of victimology and explore how people become victims of crimes. Create victim profiles and a victim data table for serial criminal offenses.

  • DSM-V + Mental Illness

    Investigate how mental illness relates to criminal offenses and dig into the role of stigmatization and the ways it impacts the manifestations of violence and anger. Use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) to review diagnostic criteria and identify treatment and rehabilitation options.

  • Criminal Theory Evaluation

    Examine closely the Broken Windows Theory, Social Control Theory, Strain Theory and more. Then, test these theories of criminality in order to see their real-life influence on human behavior.

  • Professional Practices

    Chicago Police Department is one of the largest and most sophisticated police departments in the United States. Meet with members of the force, FBI agents, or detectives to explore the current criminal investigative process used by professionals in the field.

My Criminal Psychology instructor is so knowledgeable and she makes things really fun. It's only the fourth day here and I've already learned so much. I've always liked shows about a criminal's mind and related things. Now I'm learning them in real life. We literally just learned about the profiling stuff that they always have in TV shows yesterday. Now I want to further develop my interest in it. Before I came, I've always thought I wanted to be an engineer. But after switching from the Engineering course to Criminal Psychology, I literally just fell in love with it. I might study it in college!

Advisors + Past Speakers

Saul Kassin

Emeritus Professor of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Saul Kassin is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and Massachusetts, and Professor Emeritus at Williams College. He is a premier (and award winning) expert on the study of false confessions, particularly the impact those confessions have on judges, juries, witnesses, and the plea bargaining process. Kassin has appeared on virtually all major United States television networks, and his research has been cited by the Supreme Courts of the United States, Canada, and Israel.

Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter


Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter is a clinically trained psychologist with over 30 years experience working with children, adolescents, families, and adults. She is the former Chair of the American Psychological Association Ethics Committee and the Massachusetts Board of Licensure for Psychologists. Currently, Moorehead-Slaughter is the Psychologist at The Park School, an independent school in Brookline, Massachusetts serving pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students.

Dr. Marvin Chun

Dean of Yale College, and Professor of Psychology, Yale School of Medicine

Dr. Marvin Chun, Dean of Yale College, and the Richard M. Colgate Professor of Psychology, Dr. Chun leads a cognitive neuroscience laboratory at the Yale University School of Medicine. Also an award-winning professor, Chun’s undergraduate course Introduction to Psychology is one of the largest at Yale College and has been recognized many times. Chun has authored psychology textbooks, serves on several Boards, and acts as an advisor on the Nike Performance Council.

Dr. Casey Jordan

Criminologist, TV Commentator + Attorney

Dr. Casey Jordan is a criminologist, behavioral analyst, and attorney in private practice. She is currently the host-interviewer for Investigation Discovery’s “Wives with Knives” and serves as a consultant crime analyst for several other shows. She has contributed to more than 1000 television stories on crime and legal issues, serving as the in-house CNN Criminologist during the 2002 D.C. Sniper Event. She has appeared on all the major networks and has analyzed more than 100 cases for Court TV. Jordan has been a professor at Western Connecticut State University, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Iona College, Queens College, and St. Joseph’s College. Jordan has interviewed dozens of violent offenders and authored dozens of scholarly articles and four books.

Dr. Paul Bloom

Professor of Psychology + Cognitive Science, Yale University

Dr. Paul Bloom is the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University. His research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with a special focus on morality, religion, fiction, and art. Bloom has won numerous awards for his research and teaching, and has written for the science journals Nature and Science, as well as for The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly.

Joseph Wippl

Former CIA Officer + Professor of the Practice of International Relations, Boston University

Joseph Wippl is a 30 year veteran of the CIA and a Professor of the Practice of International Relations at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies. Wippl spent his 30 year career as an operations officer in the National Clandestine Service (NCS) and he later occupied the Richard Helms Chair for Intelligence Collection in NCS Training Program. He has served all over the world in various CIA headquarters.

Matthew Steiner

First Grade Detective, Crime Scene Unit, New York City Police Department

Matthew Steiner is a First Grade Detective with the New York City Police Department’s Crime Scene Unit. He is a twenty-two-year veteran with over seventeen years of experience as a crime scene investigator. Matthew is the lead instructor for the Crime Scene Unit. He teaches several courses with students from city, state and federal agencies. Matthew is an instructor for the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training, teaching their Advanced Forensic Investigations for Hazardous Environments course. He also works with the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program teaching Terrorist Crime Scene Investigations course.
Detective Steiner has investigated over 2000 Crime Scenes. He has been deemed an expert witness in Latent Prints, Crime Scene Investigation, Bloodstain Pattern Analysis, Shooting Reconstruction and Crime Scene Reconstruction in New York City, State and Federal Courts. Matthew is also a Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst with the International Association of Identification.