Course Syllabus

Psychology of Criminal Behavior

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Semester & Location:

Summer 2024 - Session 1 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Summer Class - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Psychology, Criminology, Sociology


One psychology course at university level.

Faculty Members: Kamilla Lange (current students please contact via the Canvas Inbox)
Program Contact:

Department email address

Time and Location:

See course schedule timing

Classroom: N7-B13


Description of Course

This course is for the student who wishes to enhance his or her knowledge of psychology with a perspective on criminal behavior. It is also for students who already have a predominantly sociological knowledge of crime and who wish to underpin this with updated psychological research.

We will explore different explanatory models of why and when people commit crime – and why and when they do not. We will look at topics such as personality, genetics, social influences, psychopathology, environmental and cultural factors to understand the nature of criminal behavior. In class, on field studies and in the use of research articles, the perspective used will be Scandinavian.

Learning Objectives

The students should gain the ability to:

  • Compare and contrast multiple criminological theories.
  • Contextualize criminal behavior from biological, psychological, and sociological perspectives.
  • Critically evaluate current and past strategies for crime detection, prevention and intervention.
  • Reflect upon and think critically about standard explanations of criminal behavior.  
  • Consider the implications of Scandinavian and American perspectives. 


Kamilla Lange

Msc. Psychology (2006, University of Copenhagen). BA. Psychology (2003, University of Copenhagen). Works as a clinical psychologist and mindfulness instructor. Teacher and supervisor for both psychologists, medical doctors and other professionals. Author of a book on mindfulness and body acceptance. With DIS since 2015.



Bartol, R. & Bartol, A. M. (2014) Criminal behavior - A Psychological Approach.


Bertelsen, P. (2015). Danish preventive measures and de-radicalization strategies: The Aarhus model. Panorama: Insights into Asian and European Affairs, 1(241), 53.

Boutwell, B. B., Nelson, E. J., Qian, Z., Vaughn, M. G., Wright, J. P., Beaver, K. M., ... & Rosenfeld, R. (2017). Aggregate-level lead exposure, gun violence, homicide, and rape. PloS one, 12(11).

Cuadrado, E., Tabernero, C., Hidalgo-Muñoz, A. R., Luque, B., & Castillo-Mayén, R. (2021). The Arousal Effect of Exclusionary and Inclusionary Situations on Social Affiliation Motivation and Its Subsequent Influence on Prosocial Behavior. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 594440. 

DeMatteo, D., Edens, J. F., Galloway, M., Cox, J., Smith, S. T., Koller, J. P., & Bersoff, B. (2014). Investigating the role of the Psychopathy Checklist–Revised in United States case law. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 20(1), 96.

Gomez & Vazguez (2015). The power of ‘feeling one’ with a group: identity
fusion and extreme pro-group behaviours. Revista de Psicología Social,  30 (3), 481-511. 

Litton, P. (2018). Traumatic Brain Injury and a Divergence between Moral and Criminal Responsibility. Duq. L. Rev., 56, 35.

Manuel, C., & Jørgensen, A. M. K. (2013). Systematic review of youth crime prevention interventions. SFI.

Markowitz (2011): Mental illness, crime, and violence: Risk, context, and social control. In: Aggression and Violent Behavior 16 (2011) 36–44.

Munkner, R. Et al. (2009) Registered criminality and sanctioning of schizophrenia patients in: Nordic Journal of Psychiatry 863 (6) 485-492

Restivo, E., & Lanier, M. M. (2015). Measuring the Contextual Effects and Mitigating Factors of Labeling Theory. Justice Quarterly32(1), 116–141.

van Dongen (2020). The Empathic Brain of Psychopaths: From Social Science to Neuroscience in Empathy. Front. Psychol. 11:695.  

Yukhnenko, D., Sridhar, S., & Fazel, S. (2020). A systematic review of criminal recidivism rates worldwide: 3-year update. Welcome open research, 4, 28.

Zembroski, D. (2011). Sociological Theories of Crime and Delinquency. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment21(3), 240–254. 

Field Studies

EXIT Cafe 


Café Exit is a church-based social project offering opportunities and giving new hope to prisoners and released prisoners. In the community the individual can gain insight and develop abilities that can help him or her to take on the responsibility for his or her own life, break former patterns and become a member of the society.

Urban planning and design walking tour


How does the built environment and urban planning affect our sense of safety and our interactions with each other? We will visit some of the areas of Copenhagen that have had problems with crime and vandalism to see how urban planning has been a key part of the solution. In groups, we will then explore and evaluate public spaces in Copenhagen. 

Guest Lectures

Anne Okkels Birk, MA (political science, University of Aarhus, 1997). Diploma in Criminology (University of Copenhagen 2007). Lecturer at DIS in the courses Criminology & Criminal Justice in Scandinavia and Gang Crime in Scandinavia.

  • Topic: Gangs and radicalization.

Kasper Asmussen. Psychology student. Previously an inmate in the Danish prison system.

  • Topic: Reflections on experiences with the Danish justice system. 

Sidsel Faurholt

Development consultant for Primus Motor / Danish Red Cross

Approach to Teaching

Most classes will be based on a lecture format for a given topic which will be followed by enriching academic discussions on topics like free will and biological determinism, developmental disorders, criminal behavior in relation to personality traits, questions of morality, and the psychological and societal effect of punishment. The course will be based on critical reflection, dialogue and debate.

Together we will create a climate where everybody can participate with constructive curiosity and reflections and all manner of questions can be asked.


Expectations of the Students

As a student your are expected to participate actively during class and field studies. Apart from asking questions, participating in discussions and offering critical reflections on the topics, students are expected to consider how their contributions affect the overall work climate in class

Be punctual for class and field studies.

Show respect for and attempt to understand other people’s viewpoints and experiences, whether this be other students or guest lecturers and people encountered on field studies



Attendance and Participation (15%)

Attendance is mandatory, except for serious illness or participation in religious holidays.

If you must miss a class:

  • Please inform me as soon as possible (latest on the day of the absence) and
  • It is your responsibility to find out what you have missed, so be sure to get the notes and any information from a classmate as soon as possible.

Active participation, questions and discussion are important and expected during class as well as during Field Studies. Please arrive several minutes before class begins. It is very distracting when students arrive late, you lose important information by missing the opening minutes, and it is especially rude if we have guest speakers.

Please plan ahead so that you leave plenty of time to get to class on time. Several tardies will affect your participation and attendance grade.


Perspectives on criminal behavior (25%) 

Max four pages (1 page = 300 words), not including title page and references. 

In this assignment, you will map out some of the main theories on criminal behavior, covering both biological and sociological theories. 

Describe the developments in theories on criminal behavior and their connections to the sociocultural context. 

Discuss the connections between society and theory: How does social policies, norms, culture and social discourse interact with theories on criminal behavior? 

Reflect on your own perspective on criminal behavior: How are your ideas about crime influenced by your environment and sociocultural setting?


Group presentation (20%)

This assignment will require students to work in groups where they produce a group presentation based on at least one peer reviewed academic research paper per group member on a chosen topic and thereafter present it as a group. Each group will then submit one research paper. More information on Canvas.


Group Research Paper (15%)

Based on the group presentations, each group will write a research based paper covering the topic of their presentation. The paper should include aspects such as context, importance and societal impact, theoretical ideas regarding the topic as well as research and findings related to the topic. More information on Canvas. 

Participation in research and reflection (25%)

This assignment will use a "Complete"/"Incomplete" grading scale.

In order to obtain a "complete" grade, the student should participate actively and engaged in the Research and Reflection class discussion and group work. More information on Canvas. 





Attendance and participation in class discussions and discussions on Canvas


Reflective Essay 


Group Presentation


Group research paper


 Participation in Research and Reflection


Disability and Resource Statement  

Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Office of Academic Support ( to coordinate this.  In order to receive accommodations, students should inform the instructor of approved DIS accommodations within the first two weeks of classes.



You are expected to attend all classes, guest lectures, workshops and field studies. If you must miss a class for religious holidays, medical reasons, or other valid reasons, you must let us know as far in advance as possible of the absence and obtain information about the work you must do to keep up in class. If you miss a class for any other reason (sudden illness, family emergency, etc.), you should get in touch with us as soon as possible and arrange to make up the work missed.

It is crucial for your learning that you stay on task and hand in assignments on or before the due date. All work– including in-class projects – have to be completed in order to pass the class. Late papers or projects will be marked down with 1/3 of a grade for each day it is late.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism and Violating the Rules of an Assignment

DIS expects that students abide by the highest standards of intellectual honesty in all academic work. DIS assumes that all students do their own work and credit all work or thought taken from others.   

Academic dishonesty will result in a final course grade of “F” and can result in dismissal. The students’ home universities will be notified. DIS reserves the right to request that written student assignments be turned in electronic form for submission to plagiarism detection software.  See the Academic Handbook for more information, or ask your instructor if you have questions.

Policy on late papers: Late essays will be accepted for up to 3 days after the deadline, but the grade for the paper will be reduced by half a grade for each day that it is late.

Policy for students who arrive late to class: Students who are repeatedly late for class will receive a lower participation grade.

Use of laptops or phones in class: Students, who use their laptop for reasons not related to class, will have their class participation grade reduced significantly. Use of telephone is not allowed outside of breaks. For some lessons, laptop use may be banned completely.  

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on: 


Course Summary:

Date Details Due