Guest Blog from Insp Michael Brown: Policing, Mental Health and the Academic Gap

I am hugely grateful to Inspector Michael Brown of the West Midlands Police (known as @MentalHealthCop on Twitter) for taking the time to write this excellent piece as a guest blog. I became aware of Michael’s work via Twitter and am amazed at what he has achieved. The issue of mental health and policing is one replete with difficulties. The police are expected to understand the complex legislation that surrounds it and how this relates to the criminal justice system. On top of this they have to understand how best to deal with individuals suffering from mental illness with the many, many challenges that can entail.

Michael has taken in on himself to develop a hugely popular and influential blog in which he provides advice and guidance for both the police and mental health practitioners in relation to these issues. He has, rightly, been recognised by his profession for his work here and I think is someone who can really be said to have brought about real change in perceptions and practice – no small feat. I urge you to follow him on Twitter and read his blog for yourselves. In the meantime, over to Michael….

I am delighted to be asked by Jez Phillips to write a guest post for his blog – what an honour. It struck me that if a serving police officer is to write for an academic’s blog, one should point towards the subject of academic research and operational policing. Apart from anything else, this is a subject dear to my own heart having taken a keen interest in academic development throughtout my career. Also, my work on policing and mental health within the service has led me to ask so many questions and often one finds there is no answer at all. I’ve said many times: there’s a lifetime of research here for someone and I occasionally I wish it were me.

I want to cover just three substantive points:

– Policing and mental health

– Policing and academia

– Research gaps in the real world

– Policing and Mental Health

Anyone who reads my blog will know that policing and mental health is a vast subject. Not only in terms of it’s potential complexity, but also it’s breadth. It gets into the most important social and public debates that we have, in some of the most challenging circumstances: public protection, the protection of the state – or lapses of both. We touch on life-threatening medical emergency, deaths in custody; the diversion or prosecution of offenders, vulnerabilities of every kind as well as emotive issues of unpredictable violence.

Some research estimates that mental health issues affect around 15% of all policing: either in connection with victims, witnesses, or suspects; or because of incidents that involve no criminal offences at all. I think this is in many respects an under-estimation. For example, I know that police officers often ‘spot’ around 15% of people coming through police custody suits and for one reason or another, ask the ‘mental health questions’. However, were the names, addresses and dates of birth to be shared with the local mental health provider, what would we find?

How many are known to the local mental health trust?

Well, there was a localised initiative in Sussex which found that 50% – yes, HALF – of all people arrested were either currently known by, previously known by or needed to be known by their secondary care mental health provider. As secondary care deals with severe and enduring mental illness, we should remember that around 17% of NHS patients needing mental health care are supported in primary care, by their GP. We don’t even know the size of the problem.

Policing and mental illness can also be about profound episodes of public confidence in policing. Death in custody inquiries are disproportionately populated by contact between police officers and service users whilst at their most vulnerable; and often their most challenging involving substance (ab)use. I have written more blog posts on the subject of s136 Mental Health Act 1983 and Places of Safety, then on any other subject within my area.

At least one contact death inquiry per year is focussed upon police detention under s136 and yet it remains the case that most people arrested by the police under this provision are removed to police stations in stead of health facilities. This happens against a backdrop of so much guidance and so many guidelines that police stations are not appropriate for detaining mentally ill people in need of nothing more than assessment, treatment and care.

 Policing and Academia

Policing in many regards is the last public sector vocation-profession to tie itself up with academia. Whereas years ago teachers, nurses and social workers were taught in vocational training institutions with a good spread of placements and ‘on the job training’, this has now given way to university education, albeit it still interspersed with vocational placement within the context of that degree. We can see that policing is moving towards this, and not before time:

There are various university courses now on ‘policing’, at the Universities of Staffordshire, Wolverhampton and Teeside, amongst others. It would be remiss of me not to highlight the BSc (Hons) degree in Policing at Wolverhampton because of its strategic liaison with West Midlands Police – it is a requirement of the degree that students are accepted as special constables and serve a certain numbers of hours of voluntary service during their three-year course. Furthermore, there is a second year module on ‘mental health’ delivered by the Nursing school of the university, a recognition of the link between the two subjects that I have not seen in any other institution. It is my privilege to have delivered a guest lecture on this course for the last few years.

Of course, the University of Portsmouth entered the higher education market for all manner of criminal justice professionals several years ago, through distance learning as well as campus based provision. I know that many police officers have seen this and other higher education provision as the key to professional advancement, but we remain a distance from police training being university based. Increasing links with academia are forging this path: the Universities Police Sciences Institute is a joint venture between the universities of Cardiff and Glamorgan and South Wales Police. UPSI provides research, training accreditation and closer ties between the frontline and peer-reviewed research of national and international recognition.

The most interesting link between academia and policing is the Violence Research Group at Cardiff University. The work of Professor Jonathon SHEPHERD is truly inspirational: his analogy of how research and professional practice in medicine is a world away from that in policing, but how the latter needs to m’ve towards the former, is astounding. I can see the benefits of this and hope within my career, we’ll have stepped towards that kind of vision.

 Research Gaps in the Real World

Policing will play an increasingly important part in the provision of mental health care in the future, in my view. Linda TEPLIN wrote in the early 1990s that police officers were “street corner psychiatrists” and if anything, this is truer now than ever. One theory is that as the ‘de-institutionalisation’ of mental health care gave way to ‘Care in the Community’, policing increasingly filled a gap in crisis care and crisis support. Initially, this brought law enforcement techniques and practice into crisis management and there were predictable consequences. In most countries there has been more than one controversial use of lethal force in relation to someone who is mentally ill. Andrew Kernan in the UK is just one of several such controversial deaths. Following the fatal shooting in Memphis in 1988 of a service user, US police departments started to adopt “Crisis Intervention Training”. This represented an alliance between the police and local mental health providers and universities to give officers accredited training to deal with mental health service users using techniques and approaches likely to reduce the need for the use of force and to increase ‘diversionary’ approaches to avoid arrest / prosecution. I’m looking to introduce a similar approach to this in the UK and will be trialling something later in the year.

Meanwhile, there are many other academic questions and areas of research activity that need tackling. We need to know more of the “what, where, who, when and how” of policing and mental health. Basic research needs doing to establish “what works” as so much about criminal justice approaches to mental health remain based upon assumption or upon research undertaken by interest groups such as mental health charities. There is a dearth of peer-reviewed, high quality academic research on this topic and in my own view as a practitioner with a quasi-academic interest, I’d like to see this plugged by non-political (small ‘p’) research in a neglected area of policing and criminology research.

So – does diversion work? I’m still not convinced of the reports I’ve read from various charities that the legal frameworks of the country that we have fully specified what we’re trying to do in the ‘diversion debate’. I’m still not convinced we know what ‘diversion’ is or the legal frameworks within which it actually operates. Far to much assumption, stigma and unreality. Accordingly, how do you begin to assess whether it ‘works’? Whatever that means …

So – are police shootings properly understood? I’m not convinced that we understand sufficiently the dynamics that are at play when the police use potentially lethal force against people with mental health problems, some of whom we know are putting themselves in harm’s way with a raised risk of being subjected to force.

So – how does the justice system react to victims with mental health problems? I’m not convinced that we have a criminal justice settlement for victims and witnesses. In our adversarial model of justice, focus upon what makes a ‘good’ witness, discriminates against those with mental health problems and we know from the case of R (B) v DPP (2009) that victims do not always get a fair deal in our justice system.

So – how do we find ourselves unable to guarantee effective crisis care? I’m not convinced that legal cases which have highlighted shortcomings in our social response – R (B) v DPP (2009; MS v UK (2012) – are absorbed as ‘lessons learned’ and taken forward into the development of services. I’m nearing my word limit, which is the only reason I have stopped asking questions. There are many more to be asked. This issue will not abate during the coming years: we know psychiatric services are withdrawing further from the provision of inpatient, outpatient and crisis mental health care and we know that internationally this means the police service will be sucked into the vacuum. It is therefore even more important that we understand the size of the problem and ask ourselves, “What works?” on the basis of understanding what is needed.

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I wanted to post this up as a ‘re-blog’ because I think this makes some interesting points about this complex and controversial issue. Written by lincpsychuk this post examines the prevalence rates of offending among persons with Mental Illness from a critical perspective. See what you think and have a look at Craig’s blog for more useful analysis of current affairs from a psychological perspective.

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The Offender Profiling Series. 1 – What is Offender profiling?

Offender profiling is a subject of great controversy. It has been widely portrayed in film and TV and yet the realities of this process, and of its usefulness, are so often misunderstood. Profiling is not, as many would have you believe, a form of magical deduction that leads to an offender being identified and plucked from the masses. Profilers are also not, again as often portrayed, blessed with some insight or strange ability to see the world through the eyes of another. No-one can really do that. At the same time though, profiling is of great interest to people and generates many questions.

For this reason I will be posting a series of articles on this subject here over the coming weeks. These will look at the concept of profiling and try and give you a fuller, and perhaps more realistic, understanding of it. I will give references and links so that you can extend your reading further where you wish to and hope that these posts will be of use, and interest, to students, writers, the police and anyone else who wants to know more about this subject.

I will cover the subject in some breadth, looking at ways it is defined, how it developed and at the different approaches that are taken to profiling. We’ll look at the work of a profiler, at the ways profiles are constructed and use case studies and examples to illustrate this. I’ll also look at the criticisms and controversies that surround it.

To begin with then, let’s examine the concept from the top – just what is offender profiling?

Firstly, offender profiling is known by a wide variety of terms. Read a range of books and papers on the subject and you will find it referred to in terms as diverse as criminal (personality) profiling or assessment, criminal investigative analysis, psychological profiling, investigative profiling, (criminal) behavior(al) profiling, and crime scene profiling (Cook & Hinman, 1999; Egger, 1999; Homant & Kennedy, 1998). Not only is there are wide variety of terms used but they are often, confusingly, used interchangeably.

So why is there this lack of consensus? Why is profiling labelled in such different ways? Essentially this reflects the fact that different theorists and practitioners argue that profiling should be approached, and applied, in different ways. Some, for example, believe that investigative experience and even ‘hunch’ are important factors in profiling. Others reject these assertions, making it clear that profiling must be approached scientifically, or not at all (an assertion that forms the backbone of ‘actuarial’ approaches to profiling developed by Prof. David Canter). These differing approaches will be outlined in more detail in future posts, but the key fact to take away at this point is that profiling is not just ‘one thing.’

As you would expect, these different approaches also mean there are a large number of definitions of profiling. For now, at least, I think the following is a useful start point. According to the FBI offender profiling, is a technique for identifying the major personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she has committed(Douglas, Ressler, Burgess, & Hartman, 1986, p. 405).

I would argue, then, that profiling is perhaps best understood as a series of investigative techniques used to determine the characteristics of an unknown criminal offender. It essentially relies on a basic premise: that an individual’s personality and mannerisms guide their everyday behaviours, including their criminal actions (this is based on important principles in psychology, another topic that will be covered in more depth in this series). Evaluating evidence found at the scene of a crime, a profiler relates this information to known behaviours and personality attributes derived from past crimes of other criminals who demonstrated similar traits. Utilizing these similarities, a profiler constructs a description, or profile, of what police investigators should characteristically look for in a suspect.

 Although this process is approached in different ways, the literature does tend to agree on one key fact. Offender profiling does not provide the identity of the offender. Instead, it indicates the type of person most likely to have committed the crime. In this way profiling can limit or better direct a criminal investigation by providing leads and strategies to aid the team. Arguably the most important of these is narrowing down the pool of suspects (by means of predicting the offender’s most likely area of residence, previous convictions, bio-psychosocial factors etc.). However profiling can also help predict subsequent crime locations, providing interview suggestions and strategies, assist with case linkage, and perhaps help prevent or predict future crimes (see e.g., Ainsworth, 2000; Ault & Reese, 1980; Douglas et al., 1986; Holmes & De Burger, 1988; Holmes & Holmes, 1996; Ressler, Burgess, & Douglas, 1988).

 So, profiling is not the ‘magic bullet’ that some portray it as, but rather a way of potentially assisting with an investigation. The police are excellent at what they do and solve the vast majority of murders and other serious offences using their own expertise. On occasion it may be that extra information can help, and this really is what profiling is about. Narrowing down a suspect pool can help police focus their efforts and aid the process of investigation. Get a profile wrong, though, and the investigation can be sent in entirely the wrong direction which can have potentially dire consequences. If you take this into account you can perhaps begin to see why controversies around this subject abound.

 In the next post I’ll look at the development of the field and how this led to the different approaches that were mentioned earlier here. Hope this is of interest!


 Ainsworth, P. B. (2000). Crime analysis and offender profiling. In P. B. Ainsworth (Ed.), Psychology and crime: Myths and reality (pp. 102−120). Harlow: Langford.

 Ault, R. L., & Reese, J. T. (1980, March). A psychological assessment of crime: Profiling. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 22−25.

Cook, P. E., & Hinman, D. L. (1999). Criminal profiling: Science and art. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 15(3), 230−241.

Douglas, J. E., Ressler, R. K., Burgess, A. W., & Hartman, C. R. (1986). Criminal profiling from crime scene analysis. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 4(4), 401−421

 Douglas, J. E., & Burgess, A. E. (1986, December). Criminal profiling: A viable investigative tool against violent crime. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 9−13.

Egger, S. A. (1999). Psychological profiling: Past, present and future. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 15(3), 242−261.

Holmes, R. M., & De Burger, J. (1988). Serial murder. : Sage Publications, Inc.

Holmes, R. M., & Holmes, S. T. (1996). Profiling violent crimes: An investigative tool, (2nd ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.

 Homant, R. J., & Kennedy, D. B. (1998). Psychological aspects of crime scene profiling: Validity research. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 25 (3), 319 −343.

Ressler, R. K., Burgess, A. W., & Douglas, J. E. (1988). Sexual homicides patterns and motives. Lexington Books: New York.

Posted in Offender Profiling, Research Resources: Links to Papers, Books etc., Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tweeting Police and Fear of Crime: How will the research work?

 Firstly my sincere thanks again to everyone for helping out with this project. I have had some brilliant support from many members of the police and public who have helped spread the word about it and got people following and ready to take part. I realise this has all taken some time to get to this point and thank you all for your patience.

Designing research questionnaires properly takes time and it has been important to make sure that: a) they ask the right questions and; b) they ask them in the right way. This process is nearly done and it won’t be long before they are published and the research can begin. I will be posting tweets to let people know when they can take part and will use the hashtag #fearofcrime as part of these.

So, how will this all work? When ready a link will be posted to the questionnaires and you will be able to access these and fill them in online. When you do this the data will be automatically stored in a secure database: there will be no hard copies of the questionnaires created at all.

There are going to be two questionnaires, one for the police who use Twitter and one for those who follow them. They will obviously have a different focus, but essentially each will be measuring your thoughts, feelings, attitudes and beliefs around either the use of social media, or your fear of crime.

I think it’s also important to clarify how the data that is gathered in this way will be treated and used for the research. As a psychologist, I am bound by the ethical code of my profession and that written by the British Psychological Society. Before the questionnaires are launched they, and the study itself, will be scrutinised by an ethics committee at the University to ensure they are ethically sound and meet the rigorous criteria for research.

Secondly, participation is entirely voluntary. No-one has to take part and full information will be provided to you, again via the online links, to enable you to decide if you wish to do so or not.

Thirdly, and related to this, the questionnaires will be entirely confidential. I will not be asking for any identifying information, just background information that will help the study (e.g., your gender and age range). I won’t know your name or where you come from. If you choose to fill in a questionnaire you will be given a unique identification code. If, for any reason, you decide that you want to withdraw your questionnaire from the study you can send a message to an email address that will be supplied and the data will be destroyed.

The data collected will only be used for the purposes of this study. It will be stored securely and only be used by myself. It will be analysed to understand the trends and relationships within it. This analysis will then form the basis of the findings of the research, findings that will be disseminated by publication and reports so that they will be made available to all.

As I’ve said in previous posts I believe this research can really help to properly understand the impact, if any, that social media in policing has on fear of crime. I’m not being funded to do this work by anyone and there is no hidden agenda here. I have no pre-conceptions in terms of what the work will show. What I do know, however, is that fear of crime can reduce liberty and prevent people from fully enjoying their lives and their communities. I think that furthering the understanding of these issues in any way we can is worthwhile, and I hope you do to.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions about this and please keep letting people know about the study. Good research needs a lot of people to take part and I hope the Twitter community out there can really help get people involved. Thank you.

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The Relationship between Mental Health and Crime: Links and Resources.

The relationship between mental health and crime, as with that between the brain and crime, is one that is both complex and controversial. The media has, unfortunately, often represented this link in a negative way, leading to the perception that people committing certain types of offences are all mentally ill. This is, of course, far from the case. Yes, some individuals with mental health problems do commit serious crime, there is no doubt about that. But far more people who suffer with these conditions don’t, and pose no danger to other people at all. The misperceptions and misunderstandings that surround the links here do, I believe, really need to be tackled so as to reduce the stereotyping that is so often their result.

In my drive to provide people with information to make up their own minds, I have listed more articles and resources on this issue below. The same problems often occur in research that examines these links as I mentioned in an earlier post. Studies are often correlational in nature and therefore causality is almost impossible to infer. And yet these studies are often wrongly portrayed as ‘proving’ links when in fact they do no such thing.

So another complex issue here and one that, rightly, causes a huge amount of debate and comment. I hope the links here help improve your understanding of this issue and perhaps inform your own thinking on it.

 Article and report links:

Misconceptions, crime and mental health disorders. Excellent article here

A Review of the relationship between mental disorders and offending behaviours.

Dangerousness and mental health: the facts. Excellent resource from MIND here

The relationship between mental disorders & different types of crime. Useful research abstract from last year here:

Gender, Mental Illness and Crime. Useful and thorough US report here

Severe Mental Illness Alone Does Not Predict Violent Crime. More input into the debate here

Violence and mental illness: an overview. A useful article from 2003 here.

The link between mental health problems and violent behaviour. Excellent article from Nursing Times.

Schizophrenia does not influence risk of violent crime. Useful short article here

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Twitter Addiction: Fact or Fiction?

Any quick internet search will bring up a variety of studies suggesting that using Twitter, and other social media, can become addictive. Indeed, one study earlier this year argued it is more difficult to resist than tobacco or alcohol. ( So can it really be addictive, and if so, how?

Addiction itself is a complex thing and there are many models used to describe it which include neurological, psychological, social and even philosophical approaches. One thing is arguably central to addiction though, and that is reward. The feelings that we associate with pleasure and even euphoria are associated with the stimulation of the reward pathway in the brain (for the technically minded this is the mesoaccumbens dopamine (DA) pathway of the midbrain, extending from the ventral tegumental area (VTA) to the nucleus accumbens). Drugs stimulate this pathway, particularly the use of cocaine which is why it is so highly addictive (Jung, 2001).

This pathway is, though, also stimulated by other activities such as eating and, perhaps even more interestingly, by receiving praise. That’s why we find praise pleasurable – it releases the neurotransmitters that are associated with these feelings. The fact that the brain responds to praise in this way signifies just how central this is for us. Essentially the brain is reinforcing this importance and therefore driving us, at some level, to seek more. Lots of different arguments have been put forward as to why this is the case. Some researchers, for example, argue that it reinforces co-operation which is vital to the survival of society. I tend to think of it in more direct terms: praise is good for self-esteem and positive self-esteem is good for our health and well-being.

So what’s this all got to do with Twitter? I believe that one of the things that social media like Twitter does is expose us to a far higher ‘praise potential’ than normal. If someone follows us it could, psychologically, be interpreted as a form of praise. That person likes the information we are sharing and wants to hear more of it. Similarly if people re-tweet us they telling us our information is worthy of sharing – is that not a form of praise? Finally they may comment directly on our tweets, telling us more overtly of their worth.

Essentially I think that, on a psychological level (and to varying levels of conscious awareness), we receive positive feedback through Twitter. This will stimulate the brain’s reward pathways and reinforce or improve our self-esteem. Even more importantly, and considering our limited brain capacity, this can occur with relatively little effort on our part (see my post on the reasons our brain love Twitter for more on this). This route to reward may, for some people, even become addictive.

I am not saying, for one minute, that everyone who uses Twitter becomes addicted to it. Nor am I saying that people who Tweet all have low self-esteem and need this improving through praise! But if we want to find an explanation for why some themselves report an addiction to Twitter (or other social media) then this is my stab at providing one.

Jung, J.(2001) Psychology of Alcohol and Other Drugs: A Research Perspective. Thousand Lakes, CA: Sage Publications

Posted in Social Media, Tweeting Police Project | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Brain and Crime: What is the relationship here?

The relationship between brain function and criminal activity is an area of huge controversy and debate from scientific, legal and philosophical perspectives. Essentially the key issues here are these: does brain dysfunction lead to criminal behaviour and, if so, what does this mean in terms of offenders’ culpability?

 It is advances in research technologies, such as the development of more sophisticated brain-scanning techniques, which have begun to provide the evidence that has stimulated this debate. Increasing numbers of studies are suggesting that individuals who have committed, often violent, crime may have differences in the structure or functioning of their brain. These differences could, it is argued, lead to their aberrant behaviour.

 Many studies have shown, for example, that injury to the frontal lobes of the brain may be related to criminal behaviour. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), studies have shown that this part of the brain is responsible for abilities in self control, planning and judgement.  This is supported by studies such as that by Damasio and Damasio (1999) which showed that individuals with damage to the ventromedial frontal cortex developed abnormal social conduct. (see here for more information on this:

When you consider that this is also the part of the brain that is most influenced by alcohol you may get some idea of how injury here may lead to changes in behaviour.

 One of many other examples here is the work of Blair (2008) which suggests that it is impairments in the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex that leads to the development of psychopathy.

 The problem always is, though, that of causality. We know that many serial killers had, or reported they had, suffered frontal lobe injury in their past. But many, many more people suffering frontal lobe injury have never committed an offence in their lives. Establishing direct links between dysfunction and behaviour is never easy but at the same time is something that has massive implications in legal terms. The debate around ‘neurolaw’ of how, and when, brain dysfunction might be admissible as mitigation for behaviour is one that continues to rage.

 So the bottom line here is that we have more and more evidence which suggests that links between the brain and crime do exist. But how direct and strong these relationships are is always open to question.

 I have posted some links below which relate to these debates and which you can read to further your research on this issue and perhaps inform your own thoughts about this complex relationship. I hope these are of help.

 Resource links:

 Do people, or their brains, commit crimes? An interesting blog post on the issues surrounding this debate is here:

Can science predict criminal behaviour? More on this controversy in this article

Crime as a brain disorder: Did his brain make him a killer? Short article with interesting points here.

The Brain on the Stand: a fascinating article on the neurolaw debate from the New York Times

Inside A Psychopath’s Brain: The Sentencing Debate. More on the controversial neurolaw debate here:

A Mind of Crime: How brain-scanning technology is redefining criminal culpability.

fMRI Evidence Used in Murder Sentencing. Interesting media article on this controversial issue

 Could Brain Scans ID Potential Criminals?

 When Rage Explodes, Brain Damage May Be the Cause.

Video of an interesting online media seminar here: The Criminal Brain: How, Could and Should We Change It?

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The psychopath: Facts and research resources

Of the many disorders represented in film, books and other media the psychopath, and the condition of psychopathy, is perhaps one of the most misunderstood. Psychopathy is an extremely complex, and often controversial, issue. Debates rage in terms of its’ diagnosis and treatment. For example psychopathy is, according to the American Psychiatric Association‘s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) a subset of Anti-Social Personality Disorders. However Blair (2005), argues that the two may be completely separate conditions.

So what are the facts? I thought it would be useful for the writers, students and other interested parties out there to give a brief overview of psychopathy and also provide some links so that you take your own research in this area further. As always, let me know if this has been useful it’s great to get some feedback.


  1. The estimated prevalence of psychopathy varies in studies between 0.2% and 2%. The most commonly cited estimate is 1%.  A study in (2009) of prevalence in a UK household population found the presence of psychopathic traits in 0.6% of the sample (Coid et al., 2009: Link below).

 2. The condition is more commonly found in males than females. Grann (2000), for    example, found the rates of psychopathy for violent offenders to be only 11.0% for women versus 31.0% for men.

 3. According to Robert Hare the key symptoms of psychopathy can be summarised under two clusters:


  • glib and superficial
  • egocentric and grandiose
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • lack of empathy
  • deceitful and manipulative
  • shallow emotions

Social Deviance

  • impulsive
  • poor behaviour controls
  • need for excitement
  • lack of responsibility
  • early behaviour problems
  • adult antisocial behaviour

4. Psychopaths and crime

  • Psychopaths are more criminally active throughout much of their life span than are other offenders (Hare, 1991; Hare, Strachan, & Forth, 1993)
  • Psychopaths are generally more violent than non-psychopaths; 97% psychopaths v. 74% non-psychopaths received at least one conviction for violent crime (Hare, 1981)


Psychopathy Links:

a. Books

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. Hare  (1999)

The Psychopath: Emotion And The Brain. Blair, Mitchell & Blair (2005).


b. Websites

Excellent resources on the study of psychopathy are on Robert Hare’s pages:

Some good general information on this site:

A profile of a psychopath by Robert Hare:


c. Research papers

Prevalence and correlates of psychopathic traits in the household population of Great Britain

Sex differences in psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder: A review and integration

 Gender differences in contributions of emotion to psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder


d. Articles

The psycho gene. V. good article here refuting idea of ‘criminal gene’ but looking at genetic basis for psychopathy

Psychopaths: Born evil or with a diseased brain? Brief but useful BBC article on this controversy here

Inside A Psychopath’s Brain: The Sentencing Debate. More on the controversial neurolaw debate here:

The Origins of Violence: Is Psychopathy an Adaptation? Some interesting points are made in this article.



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I Tweet therefore I am? Twitter, Self and Identity

Understanding ourselves has always been fundamental to human nature. Indeed, many fields of psychology focus on understanding how we form the sense of ‘I’ or ‘Me’, something that is essentially encapsulated in two concepts: self and identity.

The notion of ‘self’ is a complex thing.  As far back as 1890 William James suggested that we have more than one ‘self’, that there are actually three selves that combine to form who we are. The first is the ‘material’ self which is the awareness we have of our physical world and bodies. The second, the ‘spiritual’ self is that part of us which is aware of our own ability to think about ourselves. In other words our capacity for reflexive thought. Importantly though James also suggested that we have a ‘social’ self, which is that based on the images that we create in the minds of others.

So what has this all got to do with Twitter you ask? Well, as well as our ‘self’ having a social aspect so does our identity. Indeed the many theoretical and philosophical positions taken to identity have this social aspect in common. Erikson (1959, 1968), for example, suggested a stage model of identity, arguing that it forms as a result of our resolving a series of conflicts during our development. Importantly though his was a psycho-social theory which accepted that the context in which this all happens is inherently social. Tajfels’(1970) Social Identity Theory is, as the name suggest, even more overt in this suggestion. Indeed he argues that it is our membership of social groups that is central to giving us our sense of who we are.

Perhaps the most radical suggestion though is that put forward in ‘social constructionist’ theories of identity (e.g., Berger & Luckman, 1967) which suggest that we construct our sense of who we are purely through the discourse we have with others. They even argue that this means our identities are constantly shifting and changing based on this discourse. Pretty heavy stuff.

The main point though is that we don’t just develop our self or identity in isolation. We project information to others, both verbally and non-verbally. We also constantly receive information from others in the things they say to us, and the ways in which we say them. We take this information and, at different levels of conscious awareness, use it to get a sense of who we are and how we feel about ourselves.

Put it this way. Imagine you had a disastrous haircut. This can make you feel more ‘self-conscious’, more aware of the reactions of others and how this makes you feel about yourself. You may choose to ignore what other people say (or seem to be saying by their actions or facial expressions) or it may make you feel a little unsure. Projecting a different image, and the response of others to it, may even make you feel ‘not like you’.

So, back to Twitter. The tweets we send, and the actions of others in response to those, are all social information. We are, in those 140 characters, projecting an image of who we are, often to people we have never met. What we find interesting, or funny, or what we are doing. People then respond. They may re-tweet you and this can reinforce your choice of information and words. It means people find it interesting and this is likely to give you positive reinforcement of who you are (at least at that particular time). Alternatively we may find people ignore us, or even un-follow us. At some level, this may give us a sense of doubt and lead us to shift how we tweet and change what we say.

However conscious we are of it, the ‘social’ in social media is really important to us, and for reasons that go beyond the mere sharing of information.

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Tweeting Police and Fear of Crime: Further update and questions answered.

Many thanks to everyone, both police and public, who have helped in publicising this research – it is all much appreciated. Your assistance has meant that the word is slowly getting out about this, and support for the project is building which is great to see. I still need a lot more people to help though. This is not being ‘greedy’, it’s just that a larger sample size will help make the work more robust. So please keep letting people know! I am especially keen to get this message out on the main police accounts as this can hit a large number of people. I have had some success but if any officers out there can influence this then please help if you can.

In terms of progress, things are moving on well and it won’t be too long now before I can post questionnaires up and get this rolling. As I mentioned, again last time, I need to make sure this is right as good research is always based on good design and good measures. Which brings me onto the main point here.

As more people get involved there are, quite naturally, questions arising about the research. So I thought it best to respond to some of these as I think they are all valid and help to clarify what is being done.

  1. Will your research be impartial?

 In a previous post I praise the work done by the police so surely, people suggest, I will have a bias in my findings. The answer to this is that good research is always designed to both avoid, and prevent bias from occurring. I do, it so happens, have positive opinions about the work that police do. However, this will not, in any way, impact on the analysis that will be done on the data collected here. The statistics will show how tweets impact on people’s attitudes and feelings about crime, nothing else.

 2.  Why do you think that police tweets cause people worry?

The bottom line here is that I don’t. I don’t have any preconceptions on which way things will come out here. As an earlier post points out, research has shown that, for some people, increased exposure to crime information can increase anxiety about victimisation. For others, though, it is re-assuring. I am hoping that a robust and careful study will help examine this more and simply help to understand the processes at play more clearly.

 3. Is the research being used to censor what police can tweet?

No. I have no influence in this anyway and have no desire to impact on that at all. I simply think that this work can help inform both police and public about how social media such as this can best be used to reduce people’s anxiety and fear about crime. That I only see as a positive. Censorship doesn’t come into this at all.

Please keep the questions coming and let me know if you need any more information at all!

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