The Full Wiki

More info on David Canter

David Canter: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

David V. Canter is a psychologist. He began his career as an architectural psychologist studying the interactions between people and buildings, publishing and providing consultancy on the designs of offices, schools, prisons, housing and other building forms as well as exploring how people made sense of the large scale environment, notably cities. He set up the Journal of Environmental Psychology in 1980. His work in architecture led to studies of human reactions in fires and other emergencies. He pioneered offender profiling in Britain. He helped police in 1985 on the Railway Rapist case. He was the Professor of Psychology at the University of Surrey for ten years, where he developed Investigative Psychology described in detail in Investigative Psychology: Offender Profiling and the Analysis of Criminal Action and a course curriculum. He was Director of the Centre For Investigative Psychology which is based at the University of Liverpool. Since 2009 he has been at Huddersfield University. At Liverpool University Canter developed the MSc programme in Investigative Psychology which he directed until 2007. He no longer directs this programme which has consequently changed to reflect the wider arena of Forensic Psychology and a more balanced view of the field. He is the founder and director of the International Academy for Investigative Psychology, a professional academy for researchers seeking to apply social science to investigative and legal processes. See the IA-IP Homepage for more details, and to keep up with the latest developments in the field of Investigative Psychology.

Investigative Psychology

While some areas of the research such as the detection of deception and the evaluation of eyewitness testimony have a much longer history and rather different development, Investigative Psychology as a coherent discipline is surprisingly young. Professor David Canter coined the term Investigative Psychology in discussion with Detective Constable Rupert Heritage, sometime in early 1990 at the University of Surrey, UK. It grew out of the recognition that there were many ways in which psychology could contribute to criminal and other investigations.

The earliest studies in this area focused upon sexual assault (Canter & Heritage, 1990) and geographical offender profiling partly as a response to David and Rupert’s collaboration on the now frequently cited ‘Railway Rapist’ case (see Canter, 1994 for a detailed discussion of the nature of this collaboration) although very soon all forms of criminality were being considered by Investigative Psychologists. The spirit of co-operation between practitioner and academic remains as crucial, if not more so, today, over a decade later but the field has grown very significantly since those early studies.

In deliberating on these matters it became clear that a new field of applied psychology was emerging. This field posed many challenges to conventional research methodology demanding a special approach able to cope with the muddiness and patchiness of its central data. Investigative Psychology would also involve those who work with the problems at the ‘coal face’ in the academic questions.

Whilst early studies tended to focus on what the offender did, increasingly it has become apparent that attention to what the police do is also of great academic and practical interest. Thus, increased attention has, in recent years, begun to explore the significance of police decision making, problem solving, evaluating legal testimony and investigative interviewing alongside exploring the psychological significance of how offenders operate.

Environmental Psychology

Although best known for his theory of the Psychology of Place, David Canter has published widely on varied aspects of Environmental Psychology. He was founding Editor of the Journal of Environmental Psychology and established the MSc in Environmental Psychology at Surrey University. David was President of the Environmental Psychology division of the International Association of Applied Psychology from 2003-2006. He has consulted extensively on issues of environmental design, safety and energy efficient design and architectural psychology.

Professor Canter has pioneered the ongoing development of a theory of place experience that is directly relevant to architectural design. Growing out from his work on Environmental Psychology was David Canter's exploration of people's behaviour in fire and emergencies. This led to a series of reports at the Fire Research Unit of the University of Surrey and to a study of the fatal King's Cross Underground fire of 1987.


  • The study of meaning in architecture (1968) Publisher: D.V. Canter
  • Scales for the evaluation of buildings (1971) Strathclyde University
  • People and buildings: A brief overview of research (1972) Council of Planning Librarians
  • Psychology for Architects (1974) London: Applied Science ISBN 0-85334-590-2
  • The Psychology of Place (1977) Architectural Press ISBN 0-85139-532-5
  • Studies of human behavior in fire: Empirical results and their implications for education and design (1983) University of Surrey
  • Criminal Shadows - Inside the Mind of the Serial Killer (1994) Harper-Collins ISBN 1-928704-21-2
  • Criminal shadows - Inner Narratives of Evil (2000, Paperback) Authorlink ISBN 978-1928704218
  • Psychology in Action (1996) Dartmouth ISBN 1-85521-365-6
  • Mapping Murder: The Secrets of Geographical Profiling (2003) Virgin Books. ISBN 1-85227-078-0
  • Criminal Psychology: Topics in Applied Psychology (Topics Applied Psychology) (27 June 2008) Hodder Arnold ISBN 978-0340928929
  • The Faces of Terrorism: Multidisciplinary Perspectives: Cross-disciplinary Explorations" (ed.) (2009) WileyBlackwell ISBN-13: 978-0470753811


  • Architectural Psychology (ed.) (1970)
  • Psychology and the built environment (1974) (ed. with Terence Lee.) ISBN 978-0470521496
  • Environmental Interaction: Psychological Approaches to Our Physical Surroundings (1975) (ed. with P. Stringer) ISBN 978-0823616855
  • Designing for Therapeutic Environments: A Review of Research (ed. with S. Canter) (1979)
  • Psychology in Practice: Perspectives on Professional Psychology (ed. with S. Canter) (1982)
  • Facet Theory: Approaches to Social Research (ed.) (1985)
  • The Research Interview: Uses and Approaches (ed. M. Brenner and J. Brown) (1985)
  • Environmental Social Psychology (ed. with J.C. Jesuino, L. Soczka and G.M. Stephenson) (1988)
  • Environmental Perspectives (ed. with M. Krampen and D. Stea) (1988)
  • Environmental Policy, Assessment and Communication (ed. with M. Krampen and D. Stea) (1988)
  • New Directions in Environmental Participation (ed. with M. Krampen and D. Stea) (1988)
  • Football in its Place: An Environmental Psychology of Football Grounds; with M. Comber and D. L. Uzzell
  • Fires and Human Behaviour (ed.) (1990) Fulton ISBN 1-85346-105-9
  • Empirical Approaches to Social Representations (1993); with Breakwell, Glynis. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-852181-2
  • Criminal Detection and the Psychology of Crime (1997); with Alison, Laurence. Aldershot: Ashgate/Dartmouth. ISBN 1-85521-454-7
  • Interviewing and Deception - Offender Profiling Series, Vol. I (1998); with Alison, Laurence. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 1-85521-380-X
  • Profiling in Policy and Practice - Offender Profiling Series, Vol. II (1999); with Alison, Laurence. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 1-84014-782-2
  • The Social Psychology of Crime: Groups, Teams and Networks - Offender Profiling Series, Vol. III (2000); with Alison, Laurence. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 1-84014-497-1
  • Profiling Property Crime - Offender Profiling Series, Vol. IV (2000); with Alison, Laurence. Alderhost: Ashgate. ISBN 1-84014-787-3
  • Profiling Rape and Murder - Offender Profiling Series, Vol. V (2008); with Alison, Laurence. Alderhost: Ashgate. ISBN 1-84014-495-5
  • Profiling: Principles, Processes, Practicalities (2008); with Keppel, Robert. London: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-119276-0
  • Psychology and Law: Bridging the Gap (Psychology, Crime and Law) (Ed.) (2008); with Zukauskiene, Rita (Ed.). Ashgate ISBN 978-0754626602
  • Environmental Psychology; with Bonnes, Mirilia and Hartig, Terry. (28 April 2008) Ashgate ISBN 978-0754625308
  • The Investigative Psychology of Serial Killing; with Youngs, Donna. (28 Sept 2008) Ashgate ISBN 978-0754625483
  • Investigative Psychology: Offender Profiling and the Analysis of Criminal Action (3 Oct 2008, Paperback); with Youngs, Donna. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0470023976
  • Becoming an author: advice for academics and professionals (2006); with Fairbairn, Gavin. Open University Press ISBN-13: 978-0335202751


David Canter became known internationally in 1986 for the profile he did that helped the police to catch the ‘Railway Rapist’ and serial killer John Duffy. This was the first time such a contribution was made to a police investigation by a Professor of Psychology anywhere. It was also the first time that ‘offender profiling’ had been used by the UK police. This early profiling work was the subject of the documentary Helping Police Enquiries and featured in many others.

In the last few years David Canter has taken a more active role in helping to shape these documentaries, writing and presenting them. This has included a regular slot in a thirteen part magazine programme ‘Crime International’, shown on Sky and around the world, and the six part series for Channel 5, Mapping Murder that he co-produced, wrote and presented which has also be broadcast around the world, including on BBC America. He also was the ‘anchor’ commentator for the recent Channel 5 programme Murder Hotel and an earlier three-part programme on Fred West. A number of television documentaries have also been built around his earlier work, including his work on the psychological implications of places, human actions in fires and other emergencies, way finding in buildings, homelessness in London.

Although he is often raided for quotes by the print media, right across the board from The Sun to the Independent on Sunday, wherever possible he prefers to write for them himself most typically for The Times (Selected Articles by David Canter). He has written for all the broadsheets, on crimes and criminals in the public eye, as well as his earlier work on behaviour in emergencies. His book ‘Criminal Shadows’ was serialised in The Sun. He has been ‘profiled’ in New Scientist, The Sunday Times, and been the celebrity guest on Radio 4’s Eureka . David has an active (his wife would say obsessional) interest in composing contemporary music, which led to his being the celebrity guest on Radio 3’s Private Passions.

David started appearing on television as a commentator and discussant as early as 1967 as a regular contributor to a late night discussion programme ‘No Easy Answer’ on BBC Scotland, when he was 23 years old. Since then he has been a talking head on two or three documentaries a year, as well as being interviewed on just about every TV and radio news programme, from The Big Breakfast, through This Morning and on to Today and Mid-Week with Libby Purvis, and endless local radio programmes. He had a regular slot on BBC Radio Merseyside where he discussed matters in the news from a psychological point of view.

However while experienced in dealing with the media David is not prepared to operate as a ‘rent-a-quote, media shrink’. By the same token, he does not consider it is appropriate to comment on ongoing investigations within the UK unless invited to by the Senior Investigating Officer.

Mapping Murder is his second trade book. His first, Criminal Shadows won the Golden Dagger award for True-Crime (the true-crime equivalent of The Booker) and, remarkably, the US equivalent, an Anthony award.

Selected Articles on Professor Canter

  • Two Brains in The Guardian 2004:,,1340824,00.html

  • The Real Cracker- Story of the original profiler In The Times Jan 2006

  • Its Time to Disregard the Myths and Half-Truths:

Madeleine McCann was taken, 18 October 2007

  • Fanatic who nurses rage risks forensic science trap

08 February 2007

  • Killers seek act of revenge to wipe away a feeling of insult

17 April 2007 us_and_americas/article1663322.ece

  • From domestic crimes to attacks on strangers

27 November 2006 business/law/public_law/article650886.ece

  • Sorting the truth from Hollywood myth

19 December 2006

  • He no longer sees himself as a man with a mission but as a serial killer on the run

13 December 2006

  • Find first crime and you crack the case

12 December 2006

  • Struggle to overcome a breakdown in communications

24 October 2002

  • The precious clues hidden in his 'mental map' of the landscape

14 December 2006

  • Subtle techniques are now needed to nail suspects

30 July 2005

  • Ten dead as sniper returns to familiar territory

23 October 2002

  • Childish logic has deadly consequences in adults with a curiosity about killing

22 October 2002

  • Gang's attempt to show strength serves only to reveal weakness

09 October 2004

  • He knew he was just like the rest: a killer

14 January 2004

  • Deluded hero may have had mission to right past wrongs

11 September 2004

  • Terror tactic of the moment is designed to divide

02 February 2007

  • 'Fear of being called a paedophile was the demon that drove Huntley to kill Holly and Jessica'

18 December 2003

  • What now for the young men with a death wish?

23 July 2005

  • Crimes muddled by mind games

External links



Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address