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September 2014

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KM psychology students profile criminals in class

Vicki Kopidlansky's Psychology of Human Behavior classes recently had the opportunity to apply the communication and inferencing skills they have been developing this semester through their coursework. Students were assigned groups and researched a specific set of crimes looking to classify and determine patterns of behavior employed by a real-life criminal.

"Popular culture has brought the job of criminal profiler into my students' awareness. They have worked this semester at applying psychological principles of behavior patterns to real-world cases. This assignment affords them an opportunity to practice some of the college and career readiness skills we teach in this course," said Kopidlansky.

The multi-faceted assignment allows students to become experts on the offender that committed a specific set of crimes. Students then work in a small group to remove the offender's identity from the crimes and report out on the specifics of the offense, noting any offender behaviors that the class might be able to classify or identify patterns within.

In a large group, students ask the presentersclarification questions and point out key offender behaviors that might indicate something about the individual's education, background, or motive. As they complete the systematic process that real criminal profilers use, students use inferencing skills to form hypotheses as to how the crimes unfolded and attempt to glimpse the offender's psychological makeup.

Senior Katherine Salzer said, "Psych has really helped me develop a good understanding of how exactly it can be used to profile everyone from serial killers to people I know. There are so many cool things we do in the class like our current project where we have the chance to actually profile killers and use all the skills we have been taught so far."

"Students really enjoy this project, and it allows them to practice so many valuable skills that are used in many different courses and careers. They develop research abilities, communication and presentation skills, and significantly improve their ability to analyze human behavior," said Kopidlansky.

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