Differences between criminal psychology and forensic psychology

With the unfortunate increase in recent years in criminal acts in general, and terrorist acts in particular, scenarios such as courts or social reintegration centers are experiencing a real boom because of the need to cushion the effects involved. violence.

Likewise, criminal acts also involve processes such as mediation and victim care, as a framework of action of increasing relevance to the psychologist.

Psychology around criminal acts: what does it consist of?

Currently, psychology has become a fundamental discipline in the administration of justice. Their direct or indirect intervention in criminal proceedings is essential in the management and treatment of criminality or interpersonal and gender-based violence, as well as other conflicts of personal rights.

This need for specialization translates into a growing demand for forensic and criminal psychologists.

Differentiation between criminal psychology and forensic psychology

But to speak of criminal psychology and forensic psychology, it is necessary to clarify the differences between these two “disciplines” (or sub-disciplines) of action. There is a lot of confusion around their similarities and differences, so the terms are often confused and it is not uncommon for some people to consider it to be a single discipline.

Today we will learn about their differences between forensic psychology and criminal psychology, as well as their functions and areas of intervention.

general concepts

In order to understand the nature of each discipline, it is necessary to know some general concepts which will allow us to better understand what they consist of.


Psychology is a branch of science which studies psychic phenomena and operations. It is, in other words, the scientific study of human behavior and experience, of how humans (and even animals) think, feel, experience, learn and do in order to adapt to the environment around them.


From forensic Latin referring to forum, Refers to the place where an oral trial takes place. This term usually causes a lot of confusion and agitation as it is usually immediately associated with thanatology. However, when a term is simply added to that term it refers to the fact that it assists in the administration of justice or is related to it.


It is a concept widely used in law. Refers to the sciences that study the legal system and that related to laws.

What is each doing?

We have seen a rough definition of each of these areas, but What role does each of them play?

Forensic psychology: concept and scope

the Forensic psychology it is this part of psychology which develops in the specific legal field and / or in its dependent organs, characterized by its own techniques which make it an auxiliary science in this field.

Forensic psychology deals with behavior and mental processes that need to be explained or determined in an oral trial, Since the main interest of this branch of psychology is to help the attorney of justice. In addition, forensic psychology has the particularity of being interested in the study of the victim to determine the psychological consequences that she suffers after the crime.

What is the job of a forensic psychologist?

We can also understand forensic psychology as that branch of applied psychology relating to the collection, analysis and presentation of psychological evidence for forensic purposes. Therefore, it is essential that the forensic psychologist understands the criminal law of the relevant jurisdiction, in order to make legal assessments and to interact appropriately with judges and lawyers.

Another important aspect of the forensic psychologist is that he must have the capacity to testify in court about the expertise he has exercised (Suppose, to determine the mental state of the accused at the time of the commission of the crime). Usually their job is to clarify legal issues rather than psychological ones. Among the most notable tasks of the forensic psychologist are: to give opinions on matters in their field, to evaluate and deal with any personnel of the administration of justice involved in the process, to analyze all these problems of a psychological or emotional nature and to give relevant recommendations regarding responsibility, mental health and safety of the subject are concerned.

Criminal psychology: concept and scope

the Criminal psychology where criminology is in charge of study the behavior and mental processes of the individual who has committed a crime. Criminal psychology is therefore responsible for studying the developments and processes of a psychological nature involved in the ideation and commission of criminal acts.

It studies the why and how criminal conduct manifests itself distinctly from other behaviors, addressing the scientific observation of types of criminal behavior, types of offenders, and delinquency as a psychosocial phenomenon.

What is the job of a criminal psychologist?

Criminal psychology establishes the theoretical and practical bases to facilitate the work of criminal psychologists. These develop psychodiagnosis with the intention of predicting a prognosis and considering appropriate treatment by studying the personality of the criminal. Likewise, criminological psychology incorporates the therapeutic task of modifying the subject’s antisocial behavior.

This branch, contrary to what one might think, is not exclusively clinical but it also extends to crime studies and on the psychological factors that influence it.

Among the many tasks that can be performed by a criminal psychologist, the following can be mentioned: conducting studies on the criminal personality in order to clarify the endogenous and exogenous psychological factors that led to criminal behavior, helping the criminologist to establish the danger of ” a subject, criminal profiling in investigative agencies, offering psychotherapeutic treatment to detainees, etc.

to summarize

Criminal psychology and forensic psychology play essential roles in law enforcement, the judiciary, and criminology. However, the former is mainly used to determine the psychological reasons why a crime is committed and the medical examiner examines the effect of the crime on the victims and the mental state of the victim.

Similarities and differences

Worth having one comparative table to better understand the similarities and differences between each in a synthetic way.

Bibliographical references:

  • Mendoza Beivide, AP “Psychiatry for criminologists and criminology for psychiatrists” Editorial Trillas. Mexico. 2014
  • Stingo, NR “Dictionary of Psychiatry and Forensic Psychology” Editorial polemics. Argentina. First edition. 2006

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