Criminal Profiling: Art, Science or Both?

brainWhen I set out to write my upcoming release, JUDGMENT, I knew I had a lot of research to do, since the male lead is an FBI profiler, and it’s very important to me for my stories to be as authentic as possible. So I read more than a dozen books on profiling and the FBI, attended the writers’ police academy, made myself a pest on the crime-scene writers’ loop, and interviewed my local law enforcement resources. Then, armed with my pre-research, I went straight to the source- the FBI- for fact checking. You may or may not know that the FBI has a bureau of public affairs that provides specific avenues for writers and other artists to help them get their facts straight. Pretty cool, I think.

The real profilers, or more accurately, criminal investigative analysts, are a dedicated and courageous group, comprised of some of the brightest minds in the FBI. Most criminal investigative analysts start out as field agents before moving on to profiling, so they have experience and street smarts that round out their analytic skills.

But contrary to popular belief, profiling didn’t start with the FBI. Many consider New York psychiatrist, Dr. James Brussel, to have created the first criminal profile. Dr. Brussel astounded the police and public by providing a detailed psychological and forensic portrait of a serial bomber who had been terrorizing New York City. Burrows used deductive reasoning, psychological theory, and crime-scene analysis to come up with a finely tuned description of the culprit. When the Mad Bomber was apprehended, he fit the profile well, reportedly down to the buttoned up double-breasted suit he was wearing. One might speculate that the profile was so accurate, there might have been a little magic mixed into the process.

Which brings me back to the question. Is profiling an art or a science? John Douglas (one of the first FBI criminal profilers) and others have now developed standardized analytic techniques and a classification system, based on both their experiences and on data gathered from the study of serial murderers. But there is no doubt that the scarcity of serial killers available for analysis and the retrospective and subjective nature of the case studies, create major obstacles to verifying the scientific validity of claims made by profilers.

Nevertheless, FBI profilers are highly sought after by law enforcement to assist in their most baffling cases. The proof of their value can be seen in their high success rate. What impresses me most about these intrepid men and women is their willingness to burrow deep into the darkest recesses of the human mind. I find both the profiler and the process fascinating.

A Cassidy and Spenser Thriller

A Cassidy and Spenser Thriller

In JUDGMENT, I hope to convey a glimmer of what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a criminal investigative analyst. I loved writing this book, and I hope you’ll enjoy the series. You can read an excerpt of Judgment or sign up for my newsletter at

The human brain fascinates me. What fascinates you? One lucky commenter will win a copy of Manda Collins upcoming Christmas novella, ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS KISS on release day. Winner’s choice of e-book or print.Once-Upon-A-Christmas-Kiss

About Carey Baldwin

Carey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award winning author of edgy suspense by night.

Posted on September 9, 2014, in Author Spotlight, Carey Baldwin, Criminal Profiling and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Hi Carey! Still love those cover eyes and looking forward to your release.

    What fascinates me is the paranormal. Not so much as what one thinks of when you hear the word, but things that are fact with no explanation. Think human spontaneous combustion, someone clinically deceased, comes back and can state what was going on and said while they were “dead”. Trying to explain (to myself) the paranormal has kept me much busier than I should admit. 🙂

    blameitonabook at gmail dot com

    • Hi Julie, great to see you! Human spontaneous combustion- wow! Your comment makes me realize our fascinations are similar. Things we don’t understand. For me I’m always trying to understand or explain the kind of human behavior that doesn’t make sense. Trying to explain the unexplainable. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Fascinating post, Carey! And LOVE the cover of your new thriller. Very appropriately creepy. 🙂

  3. Such an interesting post, Carey. I often wonder what would have happened if there were profilers a century earlier during some of the scariest murders in history (like Jack the Ripper).
    But I can’t wait to read Judgment and absolutely LOVE the cover. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Sharon! Jack the Ripper is the perfect subject for a profiler, with a clear victim type, MO, and signature. I would bet if the BAU had been available to lend an international hand, Jack the Ripper would have claimed fewer lives.

  4. Great essay, Carey. The cover of your new book is beautiful and I am so stoked to be reading an advance copy. It’s fantastic!

    My fascination is with the human spirit. How we can go on in adversity, or after tragedy — how we can get a nation to stop smoking or stop littering in grass root movements. How we can send a man to the moon and probes to the far reaches of our solar system. How we take on the responsibility of hurting our planet and work to fix it and protect the most obscure life forms. And how the need for art — in stories, film, music, paintings– is as vital to mankind as water or bread.

  5. What fascinates me is the human body. How it can bounce back after a terrible accident etc.

  6. Fascinating, Carey! Thank you! So thrilling to see your new release–fab cover! Best to you!

  7. Carey, I went to your website, read the excerpt from Confession, not the one above. I somehow missed the release, but will be purchasing as soon as I get off here. Loved your first one. Boy, do you string words together in a fresh way! Best wishes with the newest release. Know it will be a huge success.

  8. Carey, I loved reading about how you researched your FBI profiler character and can’t wait to read Judgement. What did you learn about how these profilers protect themselves from the darkness while immersing themselves in such disturbing minds?

    • Krista, that’s a great question. You know, as I mentioned, I read dozens of books by profilers on profiling, and they talked about the toll it takes. Yet, I never read anything about protective measures they might take. That’s a great question for me to put on my list for my next round of questions to the FBI!

  9. Carey: I can’t wait to read Judgment! I love doing research and immersing myself in lifestyles and professions that I’ll never have. I’m fascinated by glimpses behind the scenes. I love to know how stuff works, how people tick, what a day in the life of any person other than me is like. I’m also interested in the similarities and differences among humans the world over, and the beauty of Earth. And I’d like to know the answer to Krista’s question. 😉

    • Thanks, Gwen! I loved the research. It was probably my favorite part of writing the book. I became so enthralled I started wishing I could become a profiler myself! Guess we’ll just have to live through our books.

  10. I’m fascinated by the human mind. Neuroscience is getting to grips with how the brain functions at a molecular level, but how consciousness, free will, and the amazing mental abilities of humans could have evolved, remains a fascinating mystery.

    Oh… and the origin of the universe, dark matter, and whether super symmetry is real, making string theory tractable!

    Loved the cover of the new book Carey ….. any chance of an audio version in the near future?

    • Thanks, Quantum. I don’t know of any plans for an audio version, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen down the line. Thanks for the cover love 🙂 Wowsers. You are asking some tough questions- the origin of the universe. And now I have to look up super symmetry and string theory. Thanks so much for your input!

    • Oh, dear, Quantum. I checked out super symmetry and string theory and have no idea what I read. But a least now I know these theories exist 🙂

  11. Like Julie O, I too am fascinated by the paranormal. Our house is haunted by a man. I wish sometimes he would talk to me , on the other hand am glad he doesn’t. Lol.

    I went in and pre bought Judgement and I am excited to read it! Thank you for your wonderful books.

  12. Great blog and on a topic that has always intrigued me. I’d have to say the human mind has always fascinated me and how it processes information and how different people can process the same piece differently.

    • Hi Santa! Great to see you here! It is amazing how the same event can be seen so differently by different observers. But in my case- what I see is always right 🙂 JK! Thanks so much for your comment and for stopping by the blog.

  13. Very interesting blog post, Carey! I vote for both an art and science 🙂

  14. Very interesting to consider whether criminal profiling is actually an art or science – certain a bit of both must be involved.

Thrill us with your wit...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: