5 Things Criminal Minds Got Wrong About Criminal Profiling (And 5 That Worked Right)

Each new episode of Criminal minds comes with a new case and new villains for the team to hunt down. They get on their private jet, travel to the scene of the crime, and use their profiling skills to work magic. While there are many real cases that some episodes are based on, the rest of the work done by the Behavioral Analysis Unit on this show is almost entirely fabricated, which may raise the question “how accurate is Criminal minds?”

The show isn’t all wrong, though. There are a few things that happen on the FBI BAU screen that mimic what really happens when psychology meets police work.

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What criminal minds got wrong about profiling

Criminal Profiling as an FBI Position


Group shot of the main Criminal Minds characters in an elevator

There is no such position in the FBI. There are offender profilers and other types of profilers, but they operate much lower in the food chain than what the BAU does on the show.

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Criminal psychologists work on serial killer cases but they don’t do the work that the BAU does on screen. Their jobs are completely different, far less dangerous, and even not nearly as glamorous or glamorous as the show makes them out to be. Criminal psychologists aren’t at the heart of every case, and they don’t fight crime like the BAU team does.


Cases take a week or two to resolve


Most of the show’s cases are well packaged and cured within a week or two. Real criminal psychologists often take at least a few months or even years to solve each case.

The show has a new case every week with stories that were way ahead of their time, but that’s not how it works in the real world. There aren’t as many cases to solve, and those that pass through the office of a criminal psychologist are dealt with slowly and steadily. There are also far fewer resources than in the series.

The team takes on the killers themselves


In real life, criminal psychologists never confront killers. They are not endangered and are rarely on the ground. The job of a criminal psychologist is 90% clerical work done in an office, much more similar to what Penelope Garcia does on the show, but with more psychology and less hacking.


The show’s crew are entertaining to watch and produce a lot of best quotes in Criminal minds. They have been shot, beaten, kidnapped and even killed in the line of duty. But real-life criminal psychologists are never put in life-threatening situations like this.

A private jet and bottomless resources


The show’s team has a private jet that they use to travel to various destinations while they solve crimes. They have great high tech presentations for each case and Garcia is always ready to find all the necessary information. There are no private jets for real criminal psychologists. They usually don’t leave the head office and would never need a private jet. There are also no official presentations for each case. Someone hands over a file to someone else and that’s usually how it goes.


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They sometimes have meetings but not big high-tech presentations. Garcia is another resource a team of criminal psychologists would never have. She finds totally unrealistic information and uses hacking techniques to obtain it. Technical analysts aren’t unheard of, but they wouldn’t find the same information that Garcia always finds.

They are in charge of each case


The characters of Criminal minds are attractive and even have hidden details that everyone misses. In each episode, the BAU is either invited to participate in a case by the jurisdiction where the case is located, or it takes over in some other way. They come in and often tell the police how to handle the case, making it seem like their manners are superior and they have all the power. They take over from the press and work on the case in the field.


Real criminal psychologists work in addition to the police. They really are more like people behind the scenes and don’t support anything if they help with a case.

What criminal minds have figured out about profiling

“UNSUB” is a real FBI term


Criminal minds

Rumors around the world Criminal minds insist that the term “unsub” was created entirely for the show. In fact, this term has been used by the FBI and other departments to talk about unidentified subjects for years.

The term has also been used by crime novel and true crime writers, and has been for decades. In the show, they act like the term is introduced, but that’s mostly because it’s always been used by professionals and most civilians watching at home would have no idea what ” unsub” means.

Analytical models help predict the characteristics of future suspects


Both criminal psychology and offender profiling use analytics to predict the behavior of future killers, to identify when a case involves a serial killer, and to narrow down the number of suspects in a given case. This work is always evolving as new things are discovered.

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It is a fairly new technique compared to others that are more often used in the field. It’s not magic and it doesn’t work perfectly and accurately every time. But behavioral science is used similarly to what happens on the show.

Search for criminals to add to more jobs


There are several episodes where the team interviews killers and does research to add to the body of work that other criminal psychologists can use in the future. Although criminal psychologists are not in the field in the same way, they add their own research to this larger project in order to deepen the information that future psychologists will benefit from.

The field is relatively new and there are not as many case studies to refer to as other scientific specialties. Adding to research is imperative in order to keep the profession of criminal psychology alive and evolving.

Some cases mimic real killers


The cases prosecuted by the BAU aren’t real, of course, but many of them mimic the cases of real killers. These are killers who have taken months or years for criminal psychologists and the police to track them down, but they are still real and the details of these cases appear in the show’s cases.

For example, season 5, episode 23 – “Our Darkest Hour” – is about Billy Flynn, and his methods mimic “The Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez from 1989. In season 7, the 11th episode titled “True Genius” is about a killer Zodiac Copier. Details of these cases appear throughout these episodes. It’s no surprise that there are more 20 best Criminal minds episodes to choose.

Mountains of paperwork


The more mundane aspects of the job aren’t often shown on the show, but every now and then the idea of ​​tons of paperwork comes up. Hotch tells Morgan about it as he prepares to leave. JJ’s office is often filled with files. On a few occasions, Rossi is seen with files and searches which he frantically uses to find the next clue.

In the real world, that’s what it’s mostly about. Criminal psychologists spend most of their time doing research or working at a desk.

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