Module code: SOC2074

Module Overview

This module is concerned with understanding the contribution of psychological explanations (connecting to Sociological and Criminological) for understanding criminal behaviour. It introduces students to theories and concepts of criminal behaviour according to Psychology and the context in which these ideas emerge. In particular, the module focuses on specific categories of criminal behaviour – for example, mentally disordered offences, the ‘psychopath’, violent criminals, and serial murderers. In doing so, the module seeks to examine how particular crimes come to be sensationalised and glorified by and through various media platforms. The module also sets out to examine the means for managing and evaluating interventions designed to reduce crime and re-offending, and thus enable students to consider more widely, the role of Psychology within Western criminal justice systems.

Module provider


Module Leader

HALL Matthew (Sociology)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 106

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 11

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • Psychological and pyscho-biological theories of criminal behaviour.

  • Investigative Psychology and criminal profiling

  • Mentally disordered offenders and psychopathy

  • Aggressive and violent offending

  • The treatment of criminal behaviour.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework ESSAY 50

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate a critical understanding of psychological approaches to explaining, investigating and treating serious criminal behaviour.


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:


Assessment 1: Essay (coursework), 50% (addresses LO1, LO3, and LO5) – students are tasked with responding to one of several pre-prepared questions relating to content from the first half of the module. Students are also provided the option of producing their own essay question with the support of the module leader. Each of the questions are specifically designed to enable students to draw in detail upon key case studies explored in the module and their own independent study.


Assessment 2: Reflexive report (Coursework), 50% (addresses LO3, LO3, LO4 and LO5) – students are tasked with critically assessing the contributions of Psychology for understanding and responding to criminal behavior. Students are encouraged to draw their own connections between topics, concepts, discussions and case studies from across the module and to reflect on their own understandings of these prior to the module.


Formative assessment and feedback:


Students will take part in group activities and discussions during each workshop and receive formative feedback. Written feedback is provided for both summative assessments and group-level formative feedback for each of the assessments will also be available on SurreyLearn. Summative feedback from assignment 1 will be provided in advance of assignment 2.

Module aims

  • Introduce students to psycho-biological and psychological perspectives regarding the nature of criminality
  • Critically examine how psychological theories, concepts, and research have contributed to the study, and investigation, of criminal behaviour
  • Critically explore the role of media and popular culture in communicating ideas from the Psychology of Criminal Behaviour
  • Explore the treatment, prevention, and interventional strategies used for criminal behaviour

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
003 Be able to critique the role of media and popular culture in communicating and impacting knowledge about the Psychology of Criminal Behaviour CT
004 Develop a reflexive awareness of own prior- and developing understandings of Criminal Psychology CT
005 Be able to use case studies effectively to inform and illustrate arguments KPT
001 Develop a critical awareness of Psychology¿s contributions to explaining and investigating criminality KC
002 Understand theoretical and practical approaches to the treatment of criminal behaviour KC

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to assist students in developing a critical understanding of psychological approaches for understanding criminality, investigating serious violent crimes, and the theoretical and practical approaches used in the treatment of criminal behaviour.

The learning and teaching methods include a weekly lecture, aimed at introducing students to the topics and key concepts each week, and a seminar, aimed at facilitating students to critically engage with key case studies relevant to the topic. Seminars vary week by week in terms of learning resources that are used, including varied text and audio-visual materials, key questions for group discussions, and detailed and supportive feedback. The seminars and readings for this module are specially designed not only to be complimentary to the lectures but to really expand upon the lecture material – they are central to the module as a whole and designed to be a valuable resource for students’ assessment preparation.

Throughout the module, each topic feeds into the next (for example, theories and concepts of criminality are intricately connected to acts of criminal behaviour such as violent offending and sexual offences which are, in turn, vital for understanding psychologically informed treatments and intervention for serious offending). Therefore, both the lectures and seminars are designed to build students up to a holistic understanding of the field.

Alongside essential readings each week, the module also includes a week-by-week Alternative ‘Watch’ List on SurreyLearn. This is a selection of media TV shows and films which are relevant to the module. These are not intended as sources of academic information, but instead as interesting and reflective pieces which demonstrate how media portrays the Psychology of Criminal Behaviour, which we look at regularly throughout the module.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: SOC2074

Other information

The Department of Sociology is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:


Employability – Throughout the module students will be exposed to the sub-fields of Criminal and Forensic Psychology. This is an area of substantial crossover between criminology/sociology and psychology with a particular focus on crime, criminal justice systems and the law. The module not only supplies students with relevant knowledge suitable for future careers in this area, but also supplies a number of key skills in relation to employment. If students are considering a career in the police, policymaking, prison services or rehabilitation, then this module provides a basic understanding of the uses of Criminal Psychology in these areas. The module also offers a realistic look into these types of careers – particularly when exploring treatments, prevention and interventions in response to serious crime. Here, students will pay close attention to professional roles within the field (especially the 'Forensic Psychologist' and what they are and are not able to do). Students will consider the social context of this field and how rehabilitation relates to theories of crime. The module is particularly useful for students considering a Psychology Conversion MSc following their UG degree.

Furthermore, a central theme running through the module exposes how the Psychology of Criminal Behaviour often differs dramatically from media representations of it, building further upon students’ critical thinking skills around how ‘scientific’ knowledge is communicated to the public (and to themselves).


Global and Cultural Capabilities – Across the module, Psychology’s contributions to explaining, treating and investigating criminal behaviour are explored within their social, historical and cultural context. As such, students will become accustomed to recognising the risks, and sensitive to the consequences, of universalising such approaches (particularly in relation to the field’s predominantly North American focus of attention).

The module has been designed to frequently draw upon both local and global case studies to illustrate topics covered each week. In so doing, students will be equipped with the knowledge to critically engage with recurring issues surrounding inequality and diversity within Criminal Psychology, and in the context of navigating ‘pseudo-psychological’ representations of criminality and criminal investigation within popular culture.

Throughout the module students will reflect critically on the impact (positive and negative) that the Psychology of Criminal Behaviour (and popular culture fascination with it) has had on victims, their families and those from marginalised communities. Built into the weekly seminars, as well as Assignment 2, is the requirement for students to reflect on their own knowledge and expectations and assumptions about Criminal Psychology prior to, and over the course of, the module.


Resourcefulness and Resilience –

Throughout the module, students will be required to independently reflect on their own knowledge, independently plan and write essays, and build their confidence through participation in workshop activities. Students will also be expected to research their own case studies and present these to their peers during some seminars. Likewise, multiple seminars are geared towards training students in knowledge exchange – developing students’ capabilities in time-efficient extraction of relevant knowledge from empirical articles, sharing their research with peers, and efficient notetaking of knowledge shared by peers.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Criminology with Forensic Investigation BSc (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Criminology BSc (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Criminology and Sociology BSc (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2024/5 academic year.