Haley Scholar Reading Groups
By Cindy Lyles
“Dangerous Minds: Criminal Profiling Made Easy” details the process of FBI criminal profiling, one that includes making predictions of an offender’s personality and practices based solely on their criminal activity. The “how to” books of famous FBI profilers from the past, along with the many detective and criminal profiling TV shows, offer simplistic, romanticized views of profiling. In this essay, however, Malcolm Gladwell shows how the process of profiling is more complex than it is cut and dry.
Through a series of profiling vignettes, Gladwell raises the question of whether the FBI’s profiling practices are sound and furthermore, helpful in catching perpetrators. A group of researchers oppose the idea of profiling a criminal from his/her criminal actions alone, including forensic scientist Brent Turvey, who is “highly critical of the FBI’s approach” (350). Turvey said, “The fact is that different offenders can exhibit the same behaviors for completely different reasons…You can’t just look at one behavior in isolation” (350). It is looking at criminals’ behavior in isolation that leads to unsound and vague predictions.
Even with its “hit or miss” nature, why would the FBI profilers discussed earlier in the essay argue that profiling shouldn’t be done away with? Or, with Turvey’s standpoint in mind, how can criminal profiling be refined?