Do psychic detectives and criminal profilers really solve crimes? Or, are they doing what B.T. Barnum would’ve been proud of? Good questions in a supposedly enlightened era of post-modern America. But, the answer is no. Actually, with all the “psycho gadgets and gizmos”, we’re solving fewer crimes against persons. And, no, the bad guys aren’t getting smarter.
Yet, we all want to believe in “supernatural” quick easy answers. So that, to answer complex social issues, we can explain away the mysterious nature of human behavior. Both psychics and profilers use extraordinary conjecture. Absent of course, any credible scientific evidence of a sound basis. In other words, these sleight of hand tactics use techniques any con artist, palm reader or magician would be proud of. Each of these areas invokes clever legerdemain to embellish upon broad generalizations. A shotgun approach with the hope getting a few hits on target. People, naturally, remember the hits and forget the misses. The fallacy of inference, in reality, smoke screens an illusion in using the pretext of natural science to prove metaphysical pseudo-science. Often overlooked are the dedicated time, energy and efforts the real practitioner puts into his or her investigation. In the real world, police officers work very hard to establish the facts. As opposed to summoning the advice of “ghost busters”.
Overall, aren’t the psychics and the profilers doing the same thing? Gazing into the mystical realm of crime causation’s crystal ball? Pseudo-science, creative guesswork, right? We could conclude it’s all very clever sleight of hand trickery, designed to hoodwink the gullible public. And, justify funding, reputations or other hidden agenda. Long term, such deception has a profound affect on public policy. Thereby influencing police operations and subsequent investigative processes. Our thinking is likewise impinged. We seem to be fixated on the surreal contrived manifestations of fantasy instead of actuality. Most of us want to find the ultimate cause and effect reason to rationalize the mystery of human criminality. So, when science doesn’t answer the entire question we want answered. People invent stuff. As we strive to comprehend criminal motivations, the search for the quick fix, easy conclusion for simplistic solution stirs the drama of imagination. Rather than applying the logical deduction of serious critical thinking, we turn to movie magic. Get ideas from television shows. Instead of following the facts, we conjure “experts” who consult the spirit world. People want comfortable, uncomplicated and trouble-free solutions. As a result, people get excited the closer they get to the edge of metaphysical illusions, charmed by effortless thinking.
If psychic detectives and criminal profilers are so successful, then how come the national violent crime clearance rate is dropping? In an assessment of major offenses, crime solution rates slipped for the last fifty years. For several decades, we’ve witnessed a decline in solving the serious crimes. In spite of psychic detectives, criminal profiling and a multiplicity of associated theories, we seem to be doing worse. Now, add to this, the vast array of “investigative reporting” from the media entertainment industry. Shows that dramatize the theories, causes and subsequent solutions concerning major crimes. Instead, the televised guesses serve to collude with the other speculative fallacies. All of which helps to confuse and distort the reality of criminal investigations.
From movie magic to mainstream news coverage, instantaneous responses to crime problems suggest we’ve got all the answers. Bottom-line, we don’t. For want of such, a myriad of seemingly profound generalizations purport rapid solvability. Naturally, this reflects our obsession with “reel” to real fantasy to reality infusions. These are pretended in the fabrication of getting inside the “criminal mind”. In the same instance, these melodramatic assertions juggle the avoidance of clear, compelling and convincing proof. Not to forget of course the obligation of requisite scientific replication. To make matters more perplexing, talk shows are good at calling up an array of “experts”. From the hallowed halls of academia, or retirement from government service, arrogance of ego rushes to fill clever sound bytes. By rhyme more than reason, a hygienic face is disguised over questionable allegations of what fact versus fiction.
Again, with an array of non-practitioners practicing psychic and psycho-profiling help, what’s wrong with our solution rate? Politics for one, which affects agency budgets, which affects personnel and resources at the local level. Recruitment, training and education of criminal justice personnel for another. These are issues for a much broader discussion in another project. Suffice it to say though, there’s a criticality in filling the ranks of law enforcement personnel these days. Despite that, why aren’t the clearance rates soaring and jail populations burgeoning even more so? You’d think with all the pretense of social “expertise”, we’d be arresting criminals in significant numbers. But, we’re not. Another analysis offers that the homicide clearance rate in 1960 was around 93%. Today, by contrast, that rate dropped to about 63% in 2000. After all, if you’ve got connections with the spirit world, don’t they know what’s going on? Aren’t the poltergeists sharing the clues? Shouldn’t we have a ghost of chance of getting all the bad guys with special help from crystal balls, or psychic sketch artists? Especially the serial killers. And, don’t forget the cannibals. Since they all look like Hannibal Lecter, one would think they’d be easy to capture. Unless of course, they’re a famous English actor. Naturally, latest television crime drama. And, certain official dogma. Tells us they all fit the same “profile”, just like in the movies. At the same time, fictional detectives appear to have all the resources they need.
Again, the “why” question. This by itself creates more questions than answers. Instead, let’s use “what” to pose the query. What then, with all the high tech sci-fi stuff, that every police department must have, is the problem? Because after watching the movies, we all know every police agency has the most well-equipped crime lab in the world. Right? Not to mention, local law enforcement manages unlimited budgets, plenty of over-time and easily cleared caseloads. You think? Plus, there are plenty of psychics, who claim numerous cases solved across the country. By their own admission of course. And, if you’re a “mind hunter”, and you’ve figured it all out. Got all the latest answers. Developed a “profile” from vast statistical data bases. Then, shouldn’t the rest be pretty simple? Hold on a second though. If the “mind” is an illusion created by the brain. Then, aren’t we hunting something that doesn’t exist? How do you get inside of an illusion? How do you interview a phantom, ghost or a specter? Okay, back to the psychics and the paranormal world of investigations. Such extraordinary sensory perception, from profiling to clairvoyance, should be right on target. Correct? Wrong!
These days it seems easier for some of us to talk to the dead. That is, than getting the dead to talk to us. In the market place of communal intercourse, we can sell snake oil curatives all day long. Post-modern times provide opportunities for anyone to be an “expert” at just about anything. Doesn’t matter if you’ve ever had any real world experience. Or, worked the streets in a police car. You don’t have to be a practitioner anymore. Just be clever, assert spurious notions and know how to work the crowd. Besides, when it comes to accuracy of prediction, how come “profilers” miss the criminal target consistently without any sense of accuracy? The reality is that none of the nebulous assertions are solutions in and of themselves. It’s a veil, a cloak and a mirror over what cops usually do. That is, analyze the crime scene and theorize about the M.O. based on the facts of evidentiary considerations. Specious allegations claim something new and different. Which isn’t really different from an assessment of more traditional approaches to modus operandi. It is different in a unique sense. Such faux replication declares scientific credibility. Unfortunately, this type of thinking into criminality is deficient in regard to the complex nature of human behavior. Generic “profiles” are turned out to “keep it simple” for others to understand. That’s trickery in creating the deception.
Perhaps we’re looking at this all wrong. Maybe the psychics are on to something. Why not? If nothing else works, then let’s go paranormal. Forget the scientific methodology of applying reason, logic and rational thinking. When in doubt, we can emphasize pseudoscience. Make it up as we go along. Most people won’t question you. This stuff gets better every time you don’t think about it. Just when you wondered it was safe to go outside your dreamscape, the magicians are telling you the dream was reality. Instead of being “mindhunters”, they now call themselves “criminal behavior consultants”. They have websites, write blogs and help real police find real suspects. And, some of them do this by talking to the spirit world. Others, in official government circles, discuss such things with their ego instead of ghosts.
How gullible do we get in solving crimes? For the arena of non-practitioners, very susceptible to cognitive bias striving for subjective affirmation. Fictional crime writers, for instance, make stuff up all the time. Likewise, so do certain aspects of the pseudo-sciences. In the so called “social and behavioral sciences” we expect you to believe it. Just because we’re from academia. Even if we don’t do the research very well. At least the publisher will still market the text book. For fictional crime writers though, isn’t that why we call it fiction? More often than, it’s getting harder to tell the difference. Especially from those theorizing about criminal behavior. Since they’ve never been to the police academy, written a police report, or made an arrest.
For many, their salacious excitement stems from prurient passion of socialistic construction, pursuing deterministic precursors of crime causation. Some are influenced by crime fiction, movies and related theatrical productions. Collectivist thinking extends from feelings instead of facts. Many academic theorists, for instance, do the same thing as the crime writer. Sometimes, the academic turns crime writer. Then cleverly finds a way to lecture the police practitioner on how to catch criminals. They might even “borrow” research papers from their students. Misappropriate a colleague’s tentative project proposal. Use it to their own ends. Pilfer from colleagues, plagiarize and so on as the magic tricks continue. Meanwhile, the nature of criminality gets blurred in the mix.
The illusion continues. Along with the distractions of academic oriented “criminal profiling”, the “psychic profilers” have joined the internet “tube” circuits. In addition to that, every Psychology 101 student, and wannabe undergraduate criminologists, wants to be “forensic profilers”. Could that be a post-modern oxymoron? If “forensic” means scientific application of scientific principles to crime solving. And, suggests the criticality of “forensic evidence” with a degree of specificity. Along with the addition of “profiler”, which means one who sketches, outlines or shapes an overview. Then, don’t we strain the meanings of the words? Whatever, some still like the card tricks angle. You got to admit these are great schemes. Make it up as you go along. Say as often as possible. Act like you know what you’re talking about. Use fallacies of logic and you’ve got it. Simply tell us you got a vision. Some spirit gave you the answer. How do we test the validity of that? Something that doesn’t exist in a three dimensional plane of reality. Can we replicate to test for the truth of such an assertion? How come the “spirit world” is not more cooperative? At the same time, why can’t visions, clairvoyance and precognition be more precise? As in say physics, astronomy or biology. You know, give us the name, date of birth, addresses and incriminating evidence for the perpetrator.
Whether “criminal profiler” or “supernatural profiler”, nothing is ever foolproof, absolute or certain when it comes to the criminality of human behavior. Except the foolish arrogance of one’s self-centered intentions. Profilers get conned by the illusion of their own game. Perhaps the conceit of sociological misconceptions about determinism fools us all. For instance, one profiler became the victim of a notorious Nigerian email scam. In his case, he’d allegedly developed special techniques to “reveal” a suspect’s “unique needs, desires and probable behavioral responses”. In dealing with his criminal “accomplices” he failed to recognize with due diligence exactly that. The “needs, desires and probable responses” of the perpetrators who chose crime as a lifestyle. In this instance, it should’ve been easy. The suspects were present at the crime scene. In cases in which people try to apply “profiling techniques”, or “psychic” intervention, the suspect is unknown. Gone, flown the coop, unknown. Note the irony here.
But, beliefs become ingrained because we want them to. Once in place long enough, it’s hard to ensure corrective countermeasures. Public officials don’t like to backtrack. Having bought into some gee whiz, quick fix latest fad “crime solving” technique. Even if they’re fairy tales based on the mythology of needful illusions. Movie magic pervades the public senses. Instead of truth, supported by fact, conclusions are based on questionable “evidence” or entrenched theories. Serious forensic applications of scientific effort, supported by strenuous crime scene analysis, may get brushed aside. In place, “psychic profilers”, non-practitioner academicians, and, a host of “criminal profilers” rush to the scene of the crime. Pandering the politicos, they might get called in to “consult” on the case. Naturally, this helps a resume’.
Fake it, say it and play it until the legends unfold. This sets the stage for potentially detrimental social policies and disastrous societal consequences. These masquerade in the disguise of some factual molding. Eventually, the magic tricks find comfort in the communal mainstream. From which, we get the “devil made me do it” mentality. So we can find multiple ways to deny accountability and responsibility. If “demonic forces of evil” are busy at work. No one has to be responsible for his or her crimes.
Therein resides the problem of “profiling” anything and turning into a “serialized” event. Conventional viewpoints search for reasons. In so doing, we instantly have “no fault” crimes. Because there’s an absolution for everything, since the culpability hides in the realm of the supernatural. How do you cross-exam a figment of the imagination? May be its “evil spirits”, or damaged DNA, or allusions to studies in phrenology. For an article of ideation to be believed, it just has to sound plausible. Make it into reruns on television and you’re almost there to the hasty generalization. Doesn’t really have to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Just dramatic, other worldly and clever, with lots of neat catch phrases. Like TV show crime stories. And, make sure you get it on the six o’clock news. From there, all you do is let the entertainment industry run with it. In time, the rest is social history and cultural adaptation. Sooner or later the illusion becomes fact. Fiction transforms into urban legends. Textbooks are written. Reality has been re-invented. Revisionism can change everything to look good, not necessarily credible, or being good. For the most part, that’s the human hidden agenda. Truth, based on supporting evidence, is trumped by the personal preference of self-interests.
Proficient investigative efforts respond to unsubstantiated claims by ensuring skilled inquiry. Interestingly enough, credible research and analysis concerning “psychic profiling” critically emphasize the exaggerated claims often made. None of which can be proved at any level of realistic authenticity. By extension, “criminal profiling”, in similar vein of vanity, is considered comparable to these excursions into the supernatural. Many in the field of classical criminology, from the practitioner’s perspective, take an unfavorable viewpoint regarding these pseudo-scientific perspectives. Testing the assertions of clairvoyant “experts” typically ends with hazy formless results.
Vague, imprecise and ambiguous information provide meaningless applications to real world crime-solving. In short, “psychics” don’t really help the police even when used during times of investigative desperation. Most police departments will not utilize this kind of questionable “expertise”. Given their supposed ability to tap into the spiritual realm, none have located missing children. Neither have they revealed the identity of multiple murderers. Nor, solved any other major criminal case. Yet, in collusion with mass media exploitation, “psychics” would argue to the contrary. And, for the most part, given our inherent need to believe that something beyond our human abilities is out there. The public’s disposition toward these illusions remains well ingrained in our communal mindset. Pretext of viability has stone walled an illusion difficult to dismantle.
Law enforcement is a thinking person’s gambit. Judicious thinking requires the ability to substantiate social problem-solving based on reasoned, well-support evidentiary considerations. This is a realm of mindset where bias is self-controlled by disciplined introspection. Realistic appraisals of people’s behavior necessitate an appreciation for the complexities and mysteries of human nature. None of which can be characterized with perfect specificity of detail. Career police officers understand this multifaceted intricate makeup of humanity. Most of which cannot be easily quantified into simplistic generalizations. To do so, underscores an underlying hint of ethnocentrism, potentially influenced by racism. No matter how many ghosts you talk to, or the number of killers you interview the outcomes remain nebulous at best. You will never get an accurate template that fits every single person within the spectrum of criminality.
Sources, reference data, additional resources available from author on request.