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Psychology Degree and the Field of Security


Psychology Degree and the Field of Security

You can apply a Psychology degree to the field of security and work in criminal justice or homeland security. Modern police detectives, federal special agents, and other law enforcement and private security personnel receive training and rely on principles of psychology, human behavior, and social interactions, to find persons of interest and produce arrests.

Ultimately, applicants hoping to land a position will often have to demonstrate their skill and expertise, as well as go through the thorough interview process themselves.



A Psychology Degree for Security Interviews and Police Investigations

In spite of what TV shows like CSI and its spin-offs would like us to believe, real-life police investigations are rarely solved using breakthrough technology found in forensic laboratories. Although a scientific investigation of a crime scene can provide numerous clues, as well as physical evidence necessary to convict the perpetrator in a court of law, the analysis of samples will typically take a very long time. On average, forensic laboratories of state law enforcement agencies take about 30 days to process DNA samples, and some areas suffer from such debilitating backlogs and budgetary problems that the process may often take several months.

In fact, officers close 90% of all investigations in the first 48 hours with old-fashioned police work. The role of the psychological sciences in police investigations, and how a degree in psychology may help prepare an individual for employment in the fields of law enforcement and private security.

Interviews, Police Interrogations, and Confessions

Virtually every single person on the planet has found him or herself on the unpleasant end of the questioning, meant to ascertain their role or guilt. Typically, these types of interviews were used by their parents or school teachers, whenever there was some wrongdoing. Even though these individuals often had no formal training in the art, they were still remarkably efficient in extracting information thanks to their strong position of authority. At the same time, as the children would get older, the adults’ ability to produce a “confession” would gradually diminish over time.

However, this change was not a result of the young adult’s somehow becoming resistant to suggestion or persuasion, but because the “amateur” interviewers had no idea how to recreate that aura of authority they once had. In fact, numerous psychological studies have demonstrated that the interviewee’s perception is malleable, and a skilled interrogator will be able to eventually extract information from a suspect in spite of any initial hesitation or even open resistance. More importantly, the information can often be obtained without the individual being questioned or ever realizing they are being compliant, not to mention feeling they are under any type of psychological duress.

The Human Response During Interrogations

The trick to becoming an efficient interrogator lies in the knowledge of human psychology, and its multiple subtleties. Some police interrogation techniques, like the “good cop, bad cop” for example, are widely known. But, only a fraction of people actually understand the psychology behind it. In the case of the “good cop, bad cop” strategy, the duo of investigators relies on contradicting notions of empathy (good cop) and antipathy (bad cop), and the human mind’s desire for acceptance and understanding, directing the suspect towards the interrogator representing the positive side of the psychological spectrum.

Of course, the “good cop, bad cop” is just one of the examples of how a trained investigator can steer the human response to produce a confession, but the greater their knowledge of human psychology the more methods and techniques the interrogator will have at their disposal.

Cognitive Interviews

Another psychological principle widely used during cognitive interviews by experienced investigators, and covered in college psychology courses, is memory recollection. Two professors developed the theory behind the technique. Ronald P. Fisher and R. Edward Geiselman worked at the UCLA Department of Psychology in 1984. The study demonstrated that witnesses of crimes are like sponges of information, even though they may not realize it themselves.

More importantly, the researchers demonstrated that using cognitive interviews helps investigators to acquire important information. The results were remarkable. Individuals were on average able to recall 40% more information than the witnesses that were subject to standard interviews. Furthermore, they could recall 30% more information considered critical to the case.

Psychology Degree for Private and Corporate Security

The role of psychology in interviews is certainly not limited to police interrogations. Furthermore, individuals with psychology degrees have numerous opportunities in the private security field. In fact, all large corporations in the United States have huge teams of security personnel on their payroll, who specialize in conducting interviews of candidates applying for executive positions, resolving in-company disagreements, and various additional background investigations.

Some companies, especially those with active defense contracts from the federal government, will place an enormous emphasis on security and their staff of interviewers will often include several individuals with psychology and forensic psychology degrees, in addition to individuals who only have practical experience. Given the enormous responsibility, the salaries of private security personnel employed as professional interviewers will usually be very high, often being very close to – or even exceeding – six figures right from the start.


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