When you go to school for psychology and start to learn more about criminology, you will come across these terms and many more that you will need to know.  However, having a working understanding of some of the important terminology in the field before you begin your schooling can be helpful. Here are some of the terms that are important in the field.


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Competency – Competency is the mental state of the defendant at the time of the trial. Forensic psychologists will often have to provide competency tests to determine is someone has the mental capability to stand trial or not.

Criminal Profile – Many forensic psychologists and profilers will come up with profiles of offenders based on the crime scene and other evidence that the investigators have. A quality psychologist is often able to provide an accurate profile based on the psychological indicators that he or she discovers.

Descriptors – Descriptors in the field of profiling are the type of people that usually commit certain types of crimes, and they can be useful in creating profiles. For example, we know that most serial killers are white males in their 20s and 30s. Those are descriptors.

Jury Consulting – Jury consulting is the process by which psychologists and other professionals are able to help with the jury selection process.

Expert Testimony – In many cases, forensic psychologists will have to provide expert testimony in a trial setting. The psychologist may be providing testimony for the defense or for the prosecution. Always use the evidence at hand and your own expertise, and never let anyone persuade you to provide testimony that would conflict with your actual findings.

These are barely a handful of the different terms that forensic psychologists are going to have to learn and understand. You will have a lot to learn during while you are earning your forensic psychology degree, but you can succeed in the field if you put your mind to it.

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