GCSE/A Level Forensic Psychology & Eysenck

When answering a question on Forensic Psychology do ensure that you spend sufficient time on the issue of offending. According to feedback from AQA Psychology markers, students have a tendency to provide long accounts of theories and forget to provide sufficient application. For example when answering a question on moral development most students will explain morals according to Kohlberg, and Heinz dilemma but students pay insufficient attention to applying psychological concepts to the issue of offending.

The AQA feedback states that in many cases students will even fail to mention the term ‘offending’. Study Coach UK can’t be sure whether the reason for the failure is due to issues surrounding teaching and learning or whether the issue is linked to application. From teaching experience it does however appear that students do struggle with application skills so please find below some directions in view of application and Eysenck’s work.  


When doing application you need to use your knowledge of the psychological theory in view of the scenario or case study. In GCSE Psychology books you will see that the scenario or case study is referred to as the ‘stem’. 

What students need to do is to apply a part of the stem (the stem is an alternative term for the word: Context). Next, you need to identify the relevant Concept or Concepts and then Link to the Context, hence you will be doing application. For example if someone has broken into a store and stolen milk to feed babies (this is the stem). You then need to identify a concept that you believe could be relevant to the stem, for example Pre-Conventional level and explain how reasoning at this level might lead to the offending behaviour. 

GCSE Psychology – Context, Concepts and Link


When considering offending you could choose to explain and apply Eysenck’s theoretical contribution to the topic of criminality, if you choose to do so please note that the focus will be on personality and cognitive elements should also be discussed. 

Personality factors have been linked to a range of antisocial, criminal and delinquent behaviours. According to Eysenck the criminal is a neurotic extrovert, meaning that the criminal will score high on both N and E. N is linked to crime through anxiety. High anxiety is seen as a driver, pushing and compelling the individual to act and this ultimately multiplies with habit. If a person has high delinquent behaviour he/she will therefore persist with the behaviour if they are also a high N scorer. A high E (extrovert) score is stimulus hungry and will lead to the individual feeling a continuous need to seek thrills; you should note and explain that this behaviour is usually more difficult to change. It is said that the neurotic extrovert is under socialised and has an underdeveloped conscience.  


Do remember that as learners our job is to critique theories and that Cochrane, Heather and others have levied criticism against Eysenck’s work.  Heather argues that crime is a complex social phenomenon and therefore we need to do more than simply rely on explaining the activity of a person’s nervous system; meaning that more social factors should be taken into consideration. Heather says that Eysenck’s ideas should be criticised because it places the fault of offending inside individuals rather than in the social system where it almost always belongs. 

Psychology Eysenck and Personality – Study Coach UK


Psychoticism is seen to be more correlated to crime than either N or E. A high P score is also associated with being aggressive, uncaring, troublesome, inhumane, displaying insensitive behaviours towards others’ needs and feelings. Individuals with P score tend to not experience guilt and they are likely to prefer strange and unusual things. High P score were found to be impulsive, tend to be uncooperative, rigid and lacking sensitivity. Theorists therefore argue that there is a close association between P and overt aggressiveness and impulsive behaviours. 


Longitudinal studies of delinquency suggest that there is a link between delinquency and personality. It is said that P with E and low self-esteem might be a predictor of criminality. Longitudinal studies can be helpful in understanding criminological issues, including age and crime, predictors of juvenile delinquency, so do give these issues consideration when revising. 

Do also consider issues such as the prevalence of crime (whether more young people are committing crime). Consider whether you could raise arguments in view of whether young offenders are committing more crimes as they get older and whether there are particular crimes that young people are more likely to commit as opposed to serious offences (crimes such as burglary, robbery, sexual assault are serious crimes). 

You could also consider if young people are committing ‘status offences’ meaning: truancy, driving a motor vehicle or if they are committing both types of crime but status crime is more common. 


Identify the Context (stem for discussion) identify relevant Concept(s) for application and Link. When doing Application think outside the box, try and raise some of the related issues stated above in order to deliver a detailed well evidenced discursive answer. 


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