Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Psychological Explanations of Criminal Behaviour
Academic Year
Semester 1
Exclusive (Any Acad Year)
Reading List
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  2000 Words  50%
Semester Exam 1.5 Hours   Multiple choice exam  Multiple choice exam  50%
Supplementary Assessment Essay  2000 Words  50%
Supplementary Exam 1.5 Hours   MCQ Exam  On-Campus Multiple choice question exam  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Identify the main sub-disciplines of psychology and explain how these relate to an explanation of different offending behaviours.

2. Demonstrate an understanding of the complexities of using specific psychological theories, solely or in combination, to explain criminality.

3. Apply their knowledge of the various psychological explanations of criminal behaviour to specific offences and offence types.

4. Demonstrate an appreciation of, and an ability to analyse, the reasons for the limitations of psychology in explaining criminal behavior.

5. Analyse and evaluate the literature on psychological explanations of criminal behaviour.

Brief description

This module will build upon the principles introduced in Introduction to Criminology and provide an in-depth consideration of past, current, and future developments in the examination of offending behaviours from a psychological perspective. The module will permit students to choose to study the more complex elements of psychological explanations of criminality and thus build on the basic principles introduced in the first year and assimilate them into a broader explanation of criminal behaviour.

The module will cover the main branches of psychology (such as developmental, social, cognitive, environmental, and biological) and elaborate upon how they further our understanding of criminal behaviour. Students will be introduced to the leading research in each area and the current developments in the field. Each branch of psychology will be illustrated by reference to a range of specific crime types to allow the application of basic knowledge to various sub-types of offender.


1. History of psychology sub-disciplines and forensic/criminal psychology;

2. Developmental issues and criminal behaviour;

3. Social psychological explanations of criminal behaviour;

4. Personality and individual differences associated with offending;

5. Cognitive psychology and offending;

6. Biological explanations of criminal behaviour;

7. Environmental/evolutionary explanations;

8. Explanations of specific crime `types' i.e. sexual offending, violence, terrorism, gangs, arson etc.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Through the analysis of research findings students will develop an appreciation of the role that measurement of psychological concepts plays in the development of theory.
Communication Oral communication will be encouraged during interactive seminar discussions on various key aspects of the module - not assessed. Written skills will be developed through coursework task.
Improving own Learning and Performance Interactive lectures and seminars will encourage the critical and lateral thinking of students with exercises planned to deliver a range of opportunities to facilitate the learning of abstract concepts, and will allow students to reflect on their own learning.
Information Technology Searches of on-line electronic databases and journals will provide practice in IT skills.
Personal Development and Career planning Preparation for seminars and the assessed assignment will develop time management skills; collation of sources for assessment will nurture research skills; appreciation of complex theoretical issues will develop critical thinking skills.
Problem solving The assimilation of a range of complex theories will develop students problem-solving abilities and a range of interactive exercises in lectures, seminars and the assignment will encourage lateral thinking.
Research skills Research skills will be developed by accessing and critically analysing literature on the psychological explanations of criminal behaviour.
Subject Specific Skills This module provides students with the opportunity to identify, analyse, evaluate and practice a series of skills with respect to the psychological explanations of criminal behaviour.
Team work Small group work within seminars will foster team working.


This module is at CQFW Level 5