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Compare and Contrast Inductive Versus Deductive Profiling

A forensic investigation is carried out during the investigation (examination) of many criminal and civil cases. It is a practice of establishing the legal facts and evidences, which should be presented in the court.

A forensic investigation is related to one of the most common and fully developed forms of forensics. The variety of physical, chemical and physicochemical methods is widely used during conducting forensics.

Furthermore, the practice of manufacturing expert appraisals and experimental studies suggest that some of these problems can be solved using the methods of inductive and deductive profiling. Inductive profiling collects information that is based on some statistical data concerning past criminals, different types of past crimes and past analogous criminal and other offenses. In turn, deductive profiling focuses on the crime scenes and various real, tangible, physical evidences left by the criminal. This process takes a lot of time and is very slow because the criminalists should carefully examine and explore different forensic reports, various evidences left by an offender at the crime scene, etc.

Thus, this paper introduces inductive and deductive profiling. It presents and examines the main characteristics of these two different methods, and draws a parallel and a comparison between inductive and deductive profiling.

The background of using inductive and deductive profiling

The development and implementation of new methods of investigation, based on the achievements of natural and engineering sciences, will undoubtedly help to strengthen the evidentiary value of the conclusions. This is a widespread fact that inductive and deductive profiling is mostly used in trace, forensic and ballistic analyses. “Criminal personality profiling – formerly the stock-in-trade of whodunit writers, whose fictional detectives transformed crime scene facts into a portrait of the perpetrator – has itself been transformed in the last 20 years from fiction to fact” (Pinizzotto & Finkel, 1990, p. 215).

In criminalistics, the following factors were the prerequisites for the use of profiling methods:

  • The possibility of applying the instruments of industrial production, which naturally contributes to their rapid implementation in the practice;
  • High sensitivity, accuracy and objectivity of these methods in measuring surface microprofiles;
  • In some cases, the possibility of obtaining such information that cannot be obtained with the help of other methods.

There are two directions in forensic studies of the individual offender: the study of unknown perpetrators through material evidences at the crime scene by identifying the relationship between a perpetrator and a victim, and the study of the accused or suspected people.

In addition, it is necessary to define the general requirements for all methods of forensic investigation of the individual. Methods that can be used to investigate the accused should be primarily scientific and legal.

Special methods are used for learning and researching of individual phenomena, events or facts. In this context, modeling as a forensic method is also used in searching for an unidentified person who committed a crime.

A probable psychological portrait of an unknown offender means a set of criminalistic and relevant information about his/her personality traits, socio-demographic data about him/her, and his/her characteristic or behavioral features.

The process of compiling a probable psychological portrait of an unknown offender is called criminal profiling.

Claridge (2010) emphasized that “In the last decade the use of criminal profiling as a means to help detect and capture criminals has become more common place during many a criminal investigation” (para. 2).

Purposes and methods of criminal profiling

The major purposes of criminal profiling are to identify strategies for a preliminary investigation. The process of criminal profiling is defined as a method of identifying unique and typical psychophysiological features of the offender who committed a crime under the non-obviousness conditions. The techniques of criminal profiling basically use already stored personal information about people who have committed various crimes.

One of the main objects of some study in drawing up a psychological portrait is a criminal’s signature. It is important to study behavior: the way how the offender commits a crime. It is not superfluous to mention that it is manifested in dynamics and may vary. A criminal’s signature is the way how the criminal acts in order to realize himself in some criminal act, i.e. to reach the necessary goal in his criminal behavior.

The methods of making up and using a probable psychological portrait of an unknown perpetrator in the investigation process includes the following steps: acquisition and analysis of initial information from the crime scene, analysis of the relationship of criminological characteristics’ elements of this type of crime; reconstruction of criminal events; criminal profiling and putting forward various versions; development of recommendations for establishing and tracing the perpetrator, as well as crime forecasting of a perpetrator’s criminal behavior.

The special methods of learning, in particular, forensic -psychiatrical and forensic-psychological methods are used in drawing up a probable psychological portrait of an unknown offender. In addition to the above-stated information, it is possible to add that qualitative and quantitative analyses (content analyses) of documents are frequently used methods.

The experts make up an average probable psychological portrait of a violent offender based on the results of a forensic psychological and psychiatric examination.

Inductive profiling

Let us focus our attention on inductive profiling and examine its main concepts and characteristics.
To start with, inductive profiling is some process that profiles the offender’s criminal behavior, victims and various crime scenes from well-known emotions and different kinds of behaviors, which are offered by other victims, crime scenes, etc. In particular, it can be characterized as reasoning from initial information or statistical data to the offender’s specific criminal behavior. In any case, inductive profiling is the result that is occurred through some statistical analysis.

Moreover, inductive profiling supposes that when an offender commits a crime, he/she will undoubtedly have the same motives to other people who committed the same crime in their lives. There are three main sources of information for making inductive criminal profiling: formal and informal studies of known criminals, practical experience and information from the media.

There are some advantages and disadvantages of inductive profiling. According to Turvey (1998):
Inductive Profiling is a very easy tool to use, for which no specialized forensic knowledge, education, or training in the study of criminal behavior or criminal investigation is required. Additionally, general profiles can be assembled in a relatively short period of time without any great effort or ability on the part of the profiler. The result is often a one or two page list of unqualified characteristics. These generalizations can accurately predict some of the non-distinguishing elements of individual criminal behavior, but not with a great deal of consistency or reliability. (para. 8)

In addition to the above-stated information, it can be added that inductive profiling is very easy to use, does not require any special forensic knowledge, special education and experience. In addition, generalized profiles are compiled rather quickly. Of course, there are obvious disadvantages of this method: any provided information only applies to a limited segment of the population. Moreover, it does not refer directly to any criminal proceedings and cannot serve for making up a psychological portrait of an individual.

Furthermore, it contains inaccuracies, which could lead to the prosecution of an innocent person. Besides, it should be noted about inductive criminal profiling’s assumptions, which consist of the following ones:

  1. This is a proven fact that the criminals who have committed a crime some time ago are similar to certain and current criminals according to their cultural nature. This is because they are influenced by the same environmental circumstances and the same common motives;
  2. The small groups of known criminals, who committed the same crimes in their lives as unknown perpetrators, have similar characteristics, which can be applied with respect to the unidentified offenders through the synthesis of information;
  3. Human behavior can be predicted on the basis of the initial statistical analysis of existing features;
  4. Behavior and motives do not change with time, in other words, they are static and predictable phenomena.

Deductive profiling

Observing deductive criminal profiling, it is necessary to emphasize that it is the statistical and scientific interpretation of the evidence taking into account demonstrative (physical, tangible, etc.) evidences, crime scene photos, the results of a forensic corpse examination, as well as a careful study of the victims, offenders, and crime scene analyses in order to restore the complete picture of the crime and the specific model of the offender’s behavior at the crime scene, from which it is possible to deduce its psychological and demographic characteristics, emotional state and motivations. Any information on other similar criminals and crimes are not counted.

The advantages of deductive profiling are obvious. Its application allows criminalists to establish a so-called “modus operandi” and a criminal’s signature, which is extremely important and essential in order to clearly solve a crime.

The major disadvantages of deductive profiling can be viewed as follows:

  1. The costs of a large amount of time;
  2. The necessarily for knowledge in many areas of science;
  3. The engagement of experts;
  4. The availability of special training and skills in the field of criminology and forensic sciences;
  5. Crime scene reconstructions.

The basic principles of constructing deductive criminal profiling are as follows:

  1. Every crime must be investigated separately and at the same time the specific attention should be paid to the motivations and behavioral features of a person who committed a crime;
  2. None of the perpetrators act without motivations;
  3. The criminals have their own motivations, which distinguish them from others;
  4. Each person’s behavior is unique and individual and formed over time under the influence of biological and social factors;
  5. A criminal modus operandi can evolve over time to commit new crimes;
  6. One offender can be guided by several motives at the time of committing one or several crimes.
    Inductive profiling versus deductive profiling

Comparing and drawing a parallel between inductive versus deductive profiling, it is possible to state that inductive profiling prevails in the cases where information about the circumstances of the case is absent or very limited. In these cases, a criminalist builds different versions and models of events in accordance with individual fragments under the conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity between the proven facts. The most difficult cases for investigating require the use of heuristic methods based on the investigator’s individual experience, knowledge and intuition, the use of the generalized practice, developed modeling techniques and methods for investigating causality. A good example of the use of induction is making up a portrait (“genotype”) of a criminal. It is based on examining the ways of the criminal actions, the offender’s behavior and a set of traces of a crime left by him/her. A complex use of investigative, scientific and technical methods has a special and significant importance for implementing this methodology.

In contrast to inductive profiling, deductive one prevails in the cases when a criminalist is sent from the known laws of the object’s movement, and real evidences of the case established by the investigation, he uses as a small parcel of syllogism. This “path” is implemented with the help of using any standard techniques for solving forensic problems, since they are all based on the knowledge of the object’s natural connections. Especially, deductive profiling is effective in investigating different types of crimes committed by typical and repetitive ways. Thus, when criminalists investigate the murders that are connected with the dismemberment of corpses, a typical scheme of investigation is based on close relations between a victim and a criminal. They logically arise from the conditions and circumstances required for the dismemberment of corpses. It follows that the main key for solving a crime is the identification of the victim’s identity.

The practice of constructing a psychological portrait amounts to hundreds of successful cases, including a large number of allegations, creatively using which, the expert makes up a probabilistic profile of an unknown subject that is very close to a real one. For example, the offender’s marital status is reflected in the traces of the crime (a person, having the family, has some characteristics, such as sympathy, pity, therefore, such a person often feels guilty after the commission of a violent crime, so that he/she makes attempts to avoid the victim’s “sight”, for example by putting out the victim’s eyes or head covering). Moreover, the unknown perpetrator’s educational level can be determined by the number of nonfunctional wounds on the corpse.

Meanwhile, it is very important to evaluate all available information in constructing a psychological portrait of an unknown perpetrator, since the same traces of the crime may indicate about different personality traits.

Consequently, observing inductive versus deductive profiling it is necessary to say that these two methods are very important components for victimology, forensic reports, etc. Generally speaking, criminal profiling is related to the premise, which states that “proper interpretation of crime scene evidence can indicate the personality type of the individual(s) who committed the offence” (Rossmo, 2000, p. 8).


Taking the above-mentioned information into account, it is possible to sum up that inductive and deductive profiling is the essential components that are used in a forensic investigation and criminology as a whole. Hence, it can be emphasized that the major differences between inductive and deductive profiling are that deductive profiling cultivates some available information with the help of using personal experiences. This feature distinguishes it from inductive profiling that is based on all accessible samples of a crime.


Claridge, J. (2010, August 16). Criminal Profiling & Its Use in Crime Solving. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from http://www.exploreforensics.co.uk/criminal-profiling-and-its-use-in-crime-solving.html
Jackson, J. L., & Bekerian, D. A. (Eds.). (1997). Offender Profiling: Theory, Research and Practice. New York: John Wiley & Son.
Keppel, R. D., & Birnes, W. J. (1997). Signature killers: Interpreting the calling cards of the serial murderer. New York: Pocket Books.
Miethe, T. D., & McCorkle, R. (1998). Crime profiles: The anatomy of dangerous persons, places and situations. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury Publishing Company.
Pinizzotto, A. J., & Finkel, N. J. (1990). Criminal Personality Profiling: An Outcome and Process Study. Law and Human Behavior, 14(3), 215-233.
Rossmo, D. K. (2000). Geographic profiling. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Turvey, B. E. (1998). Deductive Criminal Profiling: Comparing Applied Methodologies between Inductive and Deductive Profiling Techniques. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from http://www.criminalprofiling.ch/article2.html#pagetop