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Forensic Psychology – Cognitive Explanations for Offending

1. The Criminal Personality

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In this lecture, we think about Eysenck’s criminal personality theory, an explanation rooted in cognition, but which at the time Eysenck attributed to a person’s biology, focusing in particular on: (i) the E (extraversion and introversion), N (neuroticism and stability) and P (psychoticism) dimensions; (ii) Eysenck’s personality questionnaire (EPQ) as a method of assessing how highly a person scores on each of these three dimensions; (iii) Eysenck’s view that personality was rooted in genetics and the nervous system; (iv) some research findings which have indicated personality differences between individuals who are and are not criminals; (v) how the E scale in Eysenck’s personality scale could be measuring both sociability and impulsivity, with only the latter likely having any association with criminality; (vi) the consequences of the fact that the majority of evidence for Eysenck’s personality type came from ‘unsuccessful’ criminals, being that they were the ones incarcerated.


In this course, Professor Ciarán O’Keeffe (Buckinghamshire New University) explores cognitive explanations for offending. In the first lecture, we think about Eysenck’s criminal personality theory, which separates personality measures into three dimensions: extraversion and introversion (E), neuroticism and stability (N), and psychoticism (P). In the second lecture, we think about Kohlberg’s developmental theory of moral reasoning, with a particular focus on his preconventional stage. Next, we think about cognitive distortions beyond moral reasoning, including hostile attribution theory, minimalisation, and Crick & Dodge’s social information processing model. In the fourth and final lecture, we think about Sunderland’s 1939 differential association theory, its criticisms, and its influence on Bandura’s social learning theory.


Professor Ciarán O’Keeffe is associate professor of education and research and head of the School of Human and Social Sciences at Buckinghamshire New University. Professor O’Keeffe’s research interests include investigative psychology and parapsychology, and has made numerous television and radio appearances alongside an array of celebrities. Some of Professor O’Keeffe’s recent publications include 'Things That Go Bump In The Literature: An Environmental Appraisal of 'Haunted Houses'' (2020) and 'Restorative Justice and Recidivism: Investigating the impact of victim-preference for level of engagement' (2014).

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APA style

O'Keeffe, C. (2022, March 24). Forensic Psychology – Cognitive Explanations for Offending - The Criminal Personality [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

O'Keeffe, C. "Forensic Psychology – Cognitive Explanations for Offending – The Criminal Personality." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Mar 2022,

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