The contribution of psychological research to Arson Investigation

Katarina Fritzon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Most recent research on arson is aimed at identifying the various motivations underlying the act This work can be classified into three general groupings. The first category of research looks at the characteristics of people who set fires. The second has sought to create typologies of their motives. A third approach has developed that has been termed a 'functional analytic9 model offire setting behaviour. In terms of the practical investigation of arson, relatively little has been done to understand the relationships between the different types of arson and the characteristics of the individuals who are likely to be involved. What has been done has generally evolved out of the FBI work on what has been termed 'offender profiling' Rather than focusing on what is actually available to an arson investigator, i.e. aspects of the arson crimescene itself, these attempts generally classify individuals in terms of the supposed underlying motive and then create a 'profile ' of that individual based on this inference. The current chapter firstly examines the two main ways that current psychological research on firesetters can contribute to the investigation of arson. Firstly, the literature on the characteristics of people who set fires allows the identification of the key features of such individuals that distinguish them from people, including other criminals, who do not set fires. Secondly the typologies of motives of firesetters allows the possibility of distinguishing between arsonists themselves. In conclusion, a new approach to arson research is outlined which focuses on the meaning of the presetting act to the offender and what this can tell us about his or her other likely characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProfiling Property Crimes
EditorsDavid V. Canter, Laurence J. Alison
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Number of pages38
ISBN (Electronic)9781315189192
ISBN (Print)9781138731011
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameOffender Profiling Series


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