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Inductive Versus Deductive Profiling Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 16th, 2021


Profiling can be described as the development of unknown offenders’ descriptions in criminal cases. Profiling is normally used when authorities do not have any suspect in mind but their descriptions which they apply while trying to figure out who the criminal might be. There exist two kinds of profiling; deductive profiling where an offender’s details, as well as those from crime, are used to exclusively reason to come up with a unique profile. On the other hand, in inductive profiling, a profile is developed from psychological typology that the profilers already know about. The two kinds are quite different from each other but at the same time, they have a few areas in which they relate. (Ronald, Stephen, 2009 p.36)

Background Information

Deductive profiling development occurred during the Classical period which was led by Aristotle and Thales. Holmes is another scholar who has widely used deductive profiling where for instance, he would observe that the clothes worn by Watson were dry even though the rain had been falling for the better part of the day. Holmes, therefore, inferred that his friend was in the club at the time rain was falling even though he could have been somewhere else.

Profiles from the FBI’s, criminologists, police officers, and clinical psychologists are found to make inferences on various issues among them being characteristics and behavior of serial murderers which is primarily based on feelings, motivation derived from the offender’s actions as well as work experience. In this case, profilers make use of deductive profiling to select some facts which serve as a particular crime’s evidence and then apply their work experience to arrive at conclusions. The information resulting from deductive profiling is normally based on dependent truth which is the kind of truth contained in details observed by an investigator when he/she first gets to a scene of crime or truth derived from interviews.

The truth principle is used as a starting point in the implementation of deductive profiling. While deductive profiling applies personal experiences in the processing of information that is available to profilers, inductive profiling applies theories that are based on a particular crime’s available instances. The achievement of vigorous deductive profiling relies on prior truths about particular subjects, which is acquired through the use of empirical research. Various factors interfere with the empirical evaluation that is carried out on available variables and they determine whether a profile will be successful or it will fail. It is therefore appropriate for profilers to apply systematic approaches to criminal profiling to come up with reliable results.

On the contrary, inductive profiling bases its evaluations on scientific analysis where reasoning is carried out from general variables to more specific variables. For instance, serial murderers’ behavior is examined by putting information on similar cases to test to determine the truth in variables that are available for evaluation. Scientific data applied in inductive profiling is normally gathered from police reports, examiner’s reports, crime scenes as well as psychological evaluations which are empirically analyzed in order to give support to a given theory.

This is contrary to what happens in deductive profiling where profilers get collect actual details from the scene of a crime which is later put under extensive examination. The steps taken in inductive profiling include the formulation of hypotheses which is followed by data coding to facilitate statistical analysis. (Ronald, Stephen, 2009 p.37)

The method of inductive profiling has proved to be more vigorous in theorization than deductive profiling since its research allows new patterns to be realized which leads to the formulation of new theories. New ways through which investigations can be conducted are also derived from an inductive method of profiling since profilers using this method indulge in research for crime patterns. In terms of originality, inductive profiling was developed before deductive profiling at a time when technology had not undergone much development. However, with the help of technological advances, deductive profiling was invented where technology is applied in the process of forensic examination which is a major element in deductive profiling implementation. (Henderson, 1995 pp 29-30)

Differences Profiling Data Sets

Some inductive profiling data sets are similar to those of deductive profiling while others are quite different. However, their data sets are more different than similar which is depicted by the different sources from which they are derived as well as their contents. Among sources of inductive profiling data are informal as well as formal studies about criminal populations, interviews and clinical sources. More inductive profiling data is derived from profilers’ practical experience where he/she recalls data that assists in variables’ evaluation.

Data from public sources are of equal importance in the method of inductive profiling including media which is normally used by FBI profilers. In the U.S, profilers make use of public sources of data like newspaper articles to update the database in which they store activities of criminal offenders. On the other hand, data sources of deductive profiling that are practically different from those of inductive profiling include forensic evidence. This evidence is quite important as it provides an analysis that should be available before the initial process of deductive profiling begins in order to show the reliability of characteristics as well as the behaviour of the crime under investigation.

Forensic evidence data source makes deductive profilers less dependent on assumptions but relies on practical evidence. Another data source for deductive profiling that is different from that of inductive profiling is the characteristics of a crime scene. The determination of these characteristics is carried out through forensic analysis, reports, and documentation which give results concerning the interaction that occurred between a particular crime scene, offender as well as victim. Individual determination is performed on those crimes that occur in series in order to get the actual details of each of them which could or could not be related.

The situation where victim characteristics are thoroughly analysed and studied is known as victimology and it also forms part of the sources from which deductive profiling derives its data. The application of victimology in a particular victim population can lead to a number of inferences regarding the motives of an offender as well as the signature of a scene of a crime. (Ronald, Stephen, 2009 p.38)

Deductive profiling has proved to be quite demanding as it requires the profilers to be equipped with specialized forensic training, analysis of wound patterns as well as the reconstruction of the scene of a crime. On the contrary, inductive profiling does not require profilers to have any forensic training to be able to undertake a criminal investigation which makes the whole process quite easy when compared to deductive profiling.

Therefore, unlike inductive profiling, deductive profiling provides more specific information which makes a great contribution towards the achievement of the main objective of profiling which is primarily directed to deriving unique suspect characteristics from universal characteristics. Deductive profiling is also more effective in the process where linkage of crimes that are not related is carried out which is necessitated by its data source nature.

The motivation of an offender to commit a crime can be determined through deductive profiling even in cases that would seem senseless due to its integration of victimology explorations as well as the effective determination of offender, victim, and crime scene interaction. This is quite impossible with inductive profiling where theoretical analysis may fail to give an offender’s motivation. Concerning the amount of time used in data collection and relation, inductive profiling takes a considerably shorter time than deductive profiling since its results do not require a high level of specification as that required in deductive profiling.

More so, profilers carrying out inductive profiling apply lesser effort than deductive profilers since they rely mostly on data that has already been collected and analysed while deductive profilers have to do the data collection for themselves as well as its evaluation. (Henderson, 1995 p.31)

Differences Profiling Results

The results of inductive profiling are deficient in the accurate prediction of the unique behavior of specific criminals since it is only able to provide non-distinguishing characteristics rather than distinguishing ones like those provided by deductive profiling sources of data. Consistency is also a major problem in the data acquired from the method of inductive profiling and its inconsistency results in a lower level of reliability on resultant information.

On the other hand, information from deductive profiling is quite reliable as it provides a higher level of consistency which is derived from the unique characteristics of a particular scene of a crime as well as their forensic examination. Inductive profiling results are also less reliable than those from deductive profiling since they are not in a position to produce a person’s profile that fits his/her descriptions accurately. These results only give generalized representations from a sample of individuals with many dependencies on the profiler’s ability, unlike deductive profiling which can produce an individual’s profile with much ease.

A large portion of the information utilized by deductive profiling is normally from current offenders and criminal activities since its profilers get information from the characteristics of crime scenes. However, inductive profiling relies more on information about past criminal activities that were collected from known offenders which makes it deficient in determining the recent skills used by intelligent criminals who would even be able to avoid law enforcement detection. It is also easier to accuse innocent people while using inductive profiling which is hardly the case with deductive profiling where an extensive forensic examination is carried out. (Ronald, Stephen, 2009 p.39)


Deductive as well as inductive profiling, have some common features which make them similar in some way. This is particularly found in instances where they are undertaken among them being crime scenes, criminal behaviour as well as victims who are affected by criminal activities. Therefore, their initial processes are similar since there has to be a crime committed for them to be undertaken. It is after the different profilers from each of these two profiling methods have visited the crime scene that they decide to undertake varying examinations.

Another similarity occurs in the kind of professionals who make use of both deductive as well as inductive profiling including FBI profilers, forensic psychiatrists and psychologists, and the profilers primarily involved in law enforcement. Another professional group that practices these two profiling methods is criminologists who use them to study the behaviour of criminals and later apply that information in the determination of reasons as to why criminals engage in their deviant behaviour.

The areas where profiling information is applied is also a major similarity between these profiling methods among them being cases presented in courts as well as rehabilitation centres in which some criminals are taken in order to improve on their behaviour before they are released back to society. (Henderson, 1995 p.32)

Practical Examples

Practical examples of each of the two profiling methods would be used to show the similarities as well as differences existing between them. An example of inductive profiling is a situation where after the occurrence of serial killings, profilers relate the incident with data from a list of past serial killings. For instance, existing data would show that about eighty percent of those serial killers known to target students are males who are aged between twenty to thirty-five years and they also drive Volkswagens.

From this generalized information, an offender who is found to attack a number of students is considered a serial killer, and he/she is assumed to be driving a Volkswagen like other serial killers targeting students. On the other hand, an example of deductive profiling would involve a situation where a woman’s body is found lying in a forest having shallow cuts at the bust region. Genital areas of the woman are found missing as well as her clothes and evidence of blood.

A short distance from the body is where tire prints appear to be engraved in a muddy road. Having taken note of the characteristics present at the scene of a crime, deductive profilers use it to first administer critical determination of the motive that was behind this particular action.

From the appearance of the woman, she appears to have been strangled before being cut. The offender must have removed the body from the actual area where he/she attacked the woman and then disposed of the body since there were no signs of blood. The offender used a vehicle to dispose of the body. Deductive profilers then conclude that the offender must have a high level of intelligence, could be employed, and could have the intention of harassing the woman sexually. It is after the motive has been determined, that forensic examination begins. (Ronald, Stephen, 2009 p.40)


It is therefore evident that deductive and inductive profiling, have a number of similarities as well as differences. Their similarities are found to occur in the areas in which they are conducted and also where their resultant data is applied. On the other hand, these two profiling methods’ differences are more than their similarities as depicted by their processes as well as steps followed. Deductive profiling is more demanding and influential than inductive profiling as it takes a longer process where an extensive examination is integrated. More developments are taking place in profiling especially deductive profiling which relies more on technology that is currently undergoing great advancements. (Henderson, 1995 p.33)


Henderson C. (1995): Scientific Evidence in Civil and criminal cases: Foundation Press pp. 29-33.

Ronald, Stephen H. (2009): Profiling violent crimes: Sage Publications pp. 36-40.

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