Professor David Canter

PhD, AcSS, FAPA, FBPsS(Hon), FRSM, CPsychol
Director International Centre for Investigative Psychology
at The University of Huddersfield
President Int. Academy for Investigative Psychology
Emeritus Professor of The University of Liverpool

From OP to IP

The success of the early profiles (see Offender Profiles) set David on track to develop a science-based approach to helping police investigations, which he called “Investigative Psychology”.

His account of this work with the police and the development of the new discipline of Investigative Psychology was published in his 1994 award-winning book Criminal Shadows. Case studies focusing on geographical profiling contributions to investigations are discussed in a second book, Mapping Murder.

Through his creation of Investigative Psychology, Professor David Canter has extended the breadth and depth of general criminology, introducing new ways of thinking about criminality and how the social sciences can contribute to the investigation and prosecution of crime.

Canter has set out the theoretical, methodological and conceptual frameworks for studying criminal behaviour that now serve as templates for all ongoing work in the area. In creating this field, Canter has developed significantly the contributions to criminology of a diverse range of disciplines from social psychology, environmental psychology, geography, mathematics, organisational psychology and social research methodology.

  • Canter, D. (2000). “Offender Profiling and Criminal Differentiation.” Journal of Legal and Criminological Psychology, 5.1: 23–46.
  • Canter, D. & Youngs, D. (2003) “Beyond “Offender Profiling”: The Need for an Investigative Psychology.” In D. Carson & R. Bull (eds.) Handbook of Psychology in Legal Contexts, 2nd ed. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
  • Canter, D. (1989) “Offender profiles.” The Psychologist, 2.1: 12–16.
  • Canter, D. V. & Heritage, R. C. (1990) “Developments in Offender Profiling.” Guildford, UK: Final Report to the Home Office, UK.
  • Canter, D. (2004) “Offender Profiling and Investigative Psychology.” Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 1.1: 1–15.

Prof Canter has been particularly prolific in opening up a number of research directions within this overall discipline IP. These include, for example:

  • The Modelling of Offending Style.
  • The Psychological and Social Correlates of Offending Styles.
  • Criminal Spatial Behaviour and the Psycho-geography of Offending.
  • The nature, form and varieties of Criminal Consistency.
  • Generic Theories for Differentiating Crimes and Criminals.
  • Development of overall approach to real world IP research and facet theory-based multidimensional scaling methodologies.

Further works under these headings are listed below.

The Modelling of Offending Style

Identification of the bases to behavioural variations across the full gamut of crimes. This modelling is becoming a sub-discipline in its own right, generating innovative perspectives on the fundamental nature of offenders’ activities as well as enhancing our understanding of the general criminal process.

Selected examples:

  • Canter, D. & Heritage, R. (1990) “A Multivariate model of sexual offence behaviour: developments in “offender profiling”.” The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, 1.2: 185–212.
  • Canter, D., Hughes, D. & Kirby, S. (1998) “Paedophilia: Pathology, criminality, or both? The development of a multivariate model of offence behaviour in child sexual abuse.” The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, 9.3: 532–555.
  • Canter, D., Bennell, C., Alison, L. & Reddy, S. (2003) “Differentiating Sex Offences: A Behaviourally Based Thematic Classification of Stranger Rapes.” Behavioural Sciences and the Law, 21.2: 157–174.
  • Canter, D. & Ioannou, M. (2004) “A multivariate model of stalking behaviours.” Behaviormetrika, 31.2: 1–18.
  • Canter, D., Alison, L. J., Alison, E., Wentink, N. (2004) “The Organized / Disorganized Typology of Serial Murder: Myth or Model?” Psychology, Public Policy and Law.
  • Fritzon, K., Canter, D. & Wilton, Z. (2001) “The application of an action systems model to destructive behaviour: The examples of arson and terrorism.” Behavioural Science and the Law, 19.5: 657–690.

The Psychological and Social Correlates of Offending Styles

Canter has led the way in showing how personal and societal mechanisms interact to influence particular patterns of offending, opening up new and focused aetiological perspectives that account for detailed differences in the manifestations of criminality.

Selected examples:

  • Canter, D. & Kirby, S. (1995) “Prior convictions of child molesters.” Journal of Science and Justice, 35.1: 73–78.
  • Salfati, G. & Canter, D. (1999) “Differentiating Stranger Murders: Profiling Offender Characteristics from Behavioural Styles.” Behavioural Sciences and the Law, 17.3: 391–406.
  • Canter, D. V. & Ioannou, M. (2004) “Criminals’ Emotional Experiences During Crimes.” International Journal of Forensic Psychology, 1.2: 71–81.

Criminal Spatial Behaviour and the Psycho-geography of Offending

His enriching of our understanding of the processes by which offenders locate their offences offers new insights into the nature of criminal events with considerable proven practical application. His widely cited “Commuter-Marauder” framework and theory of offender “Domocentricity” are the basis for geographical profiling.

Selected examples:

  • Canter, D. V. & Gregory, A. (1993) “Identifying the residential location of rapists.” Journal of Forensic Science Society, 34: 169–175.
  • Canter, D. V., Coffey, T., Huntley, M. & Missen, C. (2000) “Predicting Serial Killers’ Home Base Using a Decision Support System.” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 16.4.
  • Lundrigan, S. & Canter, D. (2001) “A multivariate analysis of serial murderers’ disposal site location choice.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21: 423–432.
  • Canter, D. (2004) “Geographical Profiling of Criminals.” Medico-Legal Journal, 72.2: 53–66.
  • Canter, D. (2005) “Confusing operational predicaments and cognitive explorations: Comments on Rossmo and Snook et al.” Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19.5: 663–668.
  • Canter, D. & Hammond, L. (2006) “A Comparison of the Efficacy of Different Decay Functions in Geographical Profiling for a Sample of US Serial Killers.” Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 3: 91–103.
  • Canter, D., Snook, B. & Bennell, C. (2002) “Predicting the home location of serial offenders: a preliminary comparison of the accuracy of human judges with a geographic profiling system.” Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 20.1: 109–118.
  • Canter, D. & Lundrigan, S. (2001) “Spatial patterns of serial murder: an analysis of disposal site location choice.” Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 19.4: 595–610.

The nature, form and varieties of Criminal Consistency

This provides an objective approach to linking crimes to a common offender. His work also reveals the extent and limits of consistency in criminal activity and offers a new perspective on criminal escalation and offence specialisation/versatility.

Selected examples:

  • Canter, D. V., Heritage, R. C., Wilson, M. & Donald, I. (1991) “A Facet Approach to Offender Profiling: Final Report to Home Office, UK.” Guildford, UK.
  • Bennell, C. & Canter, D. (2002) “Linking commercial burglaries by Modus Operandi: Tests using regression and ROC analysis.” Journal of Science and Justice, 42.3: 1–12.
  • Yokota, K. & Canter, D. (2004) “Burglars’ Specialisation: Development of a Thematic Approach in Investigative Psychology.” Behaviormetrika, 31.2: 1–15.
  • Youngs, D. & Canter, D. (in preparation) “Are Criminals Specialists, Versatile or Both?”

Psychological analyses of Offending; Generic Theories for Differentiating Crimes and Criminals

Canter has advanced in-depth psychological analyses of various violent forms of offending. He has further articulated a Canonical Model of the inferential process by which offenders’ actions can be related to their characteristics showing how Action Systems Models of criminal stylistic variation can be related to a Radex Structure of Criminal Differentiation

Selected examples:

  • Canter, D. & Frizon, K. (1998) “Differentiating arsonists: A model of firesetting actions and characteristics.” Journal of Legal and Criminological Psychology, 3: 73–96.
  • Canter, D. (2002) “The Violated Body.” In S. Sweeney and I. Hodder (eds.) The Body. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Canter, D., Kaouri, C. & Ioannou, M. (2003) “The Facet Structure of Criminal Narratives.” In S. Levy & D. Elizur (eds.) Facet Theory: Towards Cumulative Social Science. Ljubljana: University of Ljubljana.
  • Canter, D. (2006) “The Samson Syndrome: Is there a Kamikaze Psychology?” Twenty-First Century Society, 1.2: 107–127.
  • Canter, D., Youngs, D. & Cooper, J. (2004) “The facets of criminality: A cross-modal and cross-gender validation.” Behaviormetrika, 31.2: 99–111.

Development of overall approaches to real world IP research and facet theory-based multidimensional scaling methodologies

Canter has evolved innovative statistical procedures (e.g. SSA, MSA and POSA) for modelling criminal behavioural variation, offender consistency and comparative case analyses, for mapping of offender characteristics on to offending behaviour domains. These provide powerful operational tools and theoretically rich ways of integrating qualitative and quantitative data, drawn directly from a wide variety of police records, to facilitate modelling of criminal activity patterns and prediction of offending development.

Selected examples:

  • Canter, D. (1983) “The potential of facet theory for applied social psychology.” Quality and Quantity, 17: 35–67.
  • Comber, M. & Canter, D. (1983) “Differentiation of malicious and non-malicious fire-alarm calls using multidimensional scaling.” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 57: 460–462.
  • Canter, D., Brown, J. & Groat, L. (1984) “The multiple sorting task.” In M. Brenner, J. Brown & D. Canter (eds.) The research Interview. London: Academic Press.
  • Brown, J. & Canter, D. (1985) “The uses of explanation in the research interview.” In M. Brenner, J. Brown & D. Canter (eds.) The research interview: Uses and approaches. London: Academic Press.
  • Canter, D. (1985) “How to be a facet researcher.” In D. Canter (ed.) Facet theory: Approaches to social research. New York: Springer.
  • Canter, D. (2003) “A Partial Order Scalogram Analysis of Criminal Network Structures.” Behaviormetrika, 31.2: 1–21.
  • Canter, D. & Alison, L. (2003) “Converting Evidence Into Data: The Use Of Law Enforcement Archives As Unobtrusive Measurement.” The Qualitative Report, 8.2.