FEATURE2 June 2014

Crime story

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Brian Tarran meets David Canter, a founding father of investigative psychology, who went from studying biscuit purchases to helping police catch murderers and rapists.


David Canter always wanted to be a psychologist – but when the police knocked on his door in the mid-1980s, asking for his help to catch a killer, it marked a turning point in his career.

Up to that point, Canter’s focus had been on the psychology of architecture. “I actually wanted to study the psychology of art, but I couldn’t get any funding to do a PhD in it, ” he explains. “But I could get funding to work on the psychology of architecture.”

He spent more than a decade investigating the relationship between people and the environments in which they live, and how they interact with buildings and spaces within those environments.

A year in Japan, working with a building research institute, was followed by a decade back in the UK, working with a British equivalent.

In 1986, Canter was approached by murder detectives, who wanted to see whether psychological profiling was as useful a crime-fighting tool as ...