Theories of Personality in the Criminal Justice System

Course Number: PSYCHLGY 7330
Course Name: Theories of Personality in the Criminal Justice System (Online)
Course Description:    This course introduces students to the major psychological theories of personality, as they are applied in criminal justice settings as well as clinical settings. Special attention is given to the application of theories to terrorist motivation.
Prerequisites:    None
Level: Graduate
Credits: 3
Format: Online
Program: Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Registration Instructions

NOTE: The information below is representative of the course and is subject to change.  The specific details of the course will be available in the Desire2Learn course instance for the course in which a student registers.

Additional Information

Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this course, you should be able to

  • Explain why research must support any claim we make about personality.
  • Identify the purposes behind personality assessment.
  • Identify the similarities and differences among the various approaches to personality.
  • Critically evaluate the merits of the various approaches to personality.
  • Apply the various approaches to personality to a particular individual.
  • Apply the various approaches to personality to issues in criminal justice.

Process and Skills:

  • Increased ability to be a knowledgeable consumer of psychological research and psychological services.
  • Enhanced ability to employ divergent and creative thinking.
  • Enriched use of psychological principles to analyze life situations and perspectives.


  • Increased curiosity about behavior and its causes.
  • Increased insight into yourself and your own behavior.
  • Enhanced sensitivity and understanding of people who are from different cultural and ideological backgrounds.

Unit Descriptions

Unit 1
The first unit explores the methods used to study and measure personality, and presents the psychodynamic approaches of Freud and the neo-psychoanalytic theorists.

Unit 2
In the second unit we will explore the approach most commonly used by "armchair theorists," the trait theories of personality. We discuss how personality is assessed, and evaluate the limitations of trait theories as explanatory analogies. Unit 2 also covers research showing a biological basis for some personality characteristics.

Unit 3
The third unit covers theories proposing that personality is entirely learned, and can thus be unlearned. We examine the importance of consequences, models, expectations, and beliefs in personality development.

Unit 4
In Unit 4, we make a major philosophical shift. We turn to theories that stress what it means to be humans, possessed with limitless possibilities but only a short time span in which to fulfill our potential. The humanistic and existential theories focus on the perspective of the individual and the potential for growth within us all.

Unit 5
We end the semester by examining aspects of personality that reflect personal motivations, interpersonal variables, and self-motivational strategies. Aside from the biological research, these variables are currently the most popular areas of study in personality.

Grading Information

As a member of this class, you are expected to meet the following requirements:
Weekly Work (15 lessons @ 20 points each)

  • Reading assignments
  • Written assignments
  • Discussion postings

Additional Assignments

  • Group Assignment: Applying the Theories to a Rogue (100 points)
  • Theory Paper (100 points)

Examinations (4 @ 100 points each)
For each exam, you will receive six questions, and must write essay answers to four of them. You will receive the questions one week prior to the due date for the exam.

All assignments (other than exams) will be graded on the following scale:
4 = All assignments submitted, meaningful, of very good quality, and not merely duplicating statements made by others.
3 = One element missing or of poor quality
2 = Two elements missing or of poor quality
1 = Three elements missing or of poor quality
0 = Unsatisfactory work Work that is not completed will receive a zero.

Grades will be posted in the grade book for the course.

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