Goodwill, A.M. & Alison, L.J. (2007). When is Profiling Possible? Offence planning and aggression as moderators in predicting offender age from victim age in stranger rape. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 25, 823-840.
Abstract Debate continues with regard to the possibility of inferring an offender’s characteristic features from crime scene details (the process of so-called “offender profiling”). We argue that psychology generally has benefited from appreciating context in predicting behavior. In the same way, profiling would benefit from an appreciation of context in predicting characteristics. This “reverse” process is contingent on various “if…then” relationships. As one example, this paper demonstrates how profiling offender age from victim age is contingent on (i) the level of planning and (ii) the level of aggression displayed during the offense. Eighty-five stranger rape case records formed the data set. Moderated regression analysis revealed that victim age is a significant predictor of offender age only in cases where the offender has (i) shown evidence of planning the attack and/or (ii) acts in a gratuitously aggressive manner. The theoretical bases for these findings may lie in the extent to which offenders disparately plan and target victims and how extreme aggressiveness in stranger rapes may relate to a near-peer proxy for an offender’s anger. The implications of the results for the processes and methods involved in offender profiling suggest that certain crime scene factors can have differential moderating effects on predictive outcomes.