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Behavioral Science

Seal of the Behavioral Sciences Unit

The Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) was established at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, in 1972. It’s vision? To inspire excellence and leadership in the applied behavioral sciences for the FBI and its partners in order to further the FBI’s strategic priorities.

Since then, the BSU has pioneered the development of different tactics, techniques, and procedures adopted as industry standards in behavior-based programs supporting its clients within the law enforcement, intelligence, and military communities.

Behavioral science is concerned with gaining a better understanding of human behavior. The BSU focuses specifically on criminal human behavior in an attempt to better understand criminals—who they are, how they think, why they do what they do—as a means to help solve crimes and prevent criminal activity. The BSU’s team of professionals at the FBI Academy provides cutting edge training, high-impact research, and consultation in the behavioral sciences in support of the FBI’s mission and the work of the broader law enforcement and intelligence communities.

The BSU staff
Supervisory special agents and veteran police officers with advanced degrees in the behavioral science disciplines of psychology, criminology, sociology, and conflict resolution. The BSU also includes a criminologist, clinical psychologists, research/crime analysts, and program management analysts.

Who the BSU instructs
Specialized, behavior-based training for FBI National Academy students, new agents, intelligence analysts, the FBI workforce, and Citizens’ Academies, as well as for domestic and international field schools for the criminal justice, intelligence, and military communities.

What the BSU teaches
Instruction on various topics related to the application of behavioral science for law enforcement operations, including: behavioral science for law enforcement; applied criminology; bio-psycho social aspects of criminal behavior; conflict and crisis management/communication; futuristics in law enforcement; youth violence; management of death investigations; psycho-social behavior and mindset of gangs; stress management in law enforcement; cyber criminals; and interpersonal violence. For new agents, the BSU provides basic instruction on personality traits, behavioral characteristics, and conflict resolution to help better understand themselves and the action of others. 

How to request training
Submit a request in writing in coordination with your local FBI field office. The BSU’s training commitments are based on resource availability and FBI training priorities.

Research performed by the BSU
The BSU’s research focuses on developing new and innovative investigative approaches and techniques that will assist the law enforcement and intelligence communities in their execution of operational and training activities. An emphasis is placed on identifying offenders’ behaviors and motivations, particularly through direct interviews utilizing a 12-step research methodology, Perpetrator-Motive Research Design (PMDR). Much of the research conducted is with the collaboration of outside researchers and interagency partners.

Current research projects include, but are not limited to: global hostage-taking; mass victimization, homicide clearance; gangs and gang violence; behavior in the cyberworld and emerging technologies; future of law enforcement; firearm offenses; counterintelligence and the insider threat; violent and aberrant behavior; behavioral computer modeling for law enforcement; statement analysis; interviewing and persuasion; and law enforcement stress and stress management.

The Futures Working Group
The BSU also leads the collaboration with the Futures Working Group, a partnership of the Society of Police Futurists International and the FBI. The purpose of the Futures Working Group is to develop and encourage others to develop forecasts and strategies to maximize the effectiveness of local, state, federal, and international law enforcement as they strive to maintain peace and security in the 21st century.

Interested in an internship with the BSU?
The BSU participates in the FBI’s Volunteer Internship Program which offers full-time unpaid internship opportunities to qualified students during the summer months (June-August). See the Student Center on the www.fbijobs.gov website for more details.