TV shows, crime movies and novels sometime contain professional law enforcement profilers who are able to characterize the behavior of individuals through body language, habits, and appearance. Sherlock Holmes was one of the first fictionalized private detective profiler characters. But we are all amateur profilers. The primary difference between the armature profiling we do and that of professionals is that the professionals have learned through the accumulated knowledge taught in education the psychological makeup of people and how this relates to their physical appearance and behaviors. We, on the other hand, learn about profiling from our family, friends, and everyday experiences. The difference between the two is objectivity vs. biases and even racism or sexism.
But where would we all be if we didn’t characterize various physical characteristics and behaviors in people? Profiling is part of our defense mechanism that has socially been built into us to help us differentiate between friend and foe. We initially learn these physical and behavior traits as we grow up largely from our parents. It is what identifies us with a group and differentiates us from others. It is part of our identity because those we profile as friends are the people most like ourselves and whomever we usually hang out with and invite into our rings of friendships.
The problem is that we often profile people based upon one physical characteristic such as skin color or obesity or shape of nose or eyes or beauty or ugliness. Such profiling fails to look as multiple features and behaviors that flaw profiling as a defense mechanism and sometimes makes foes out of friendly people and friends out of devious people.
The practice of profiling in law enforcement is likewise frequently flawed often due to the lack of proper training. However mistakes made in law enforcement can have far greater consequences from arresting an innocent person to killing an innocent person. It is essential that all law enforcement receive proper profiling training so that they will be less biased in identifying certain people of color or appearance as criminals. Law enforcement and peace officers should be maintaining the law and keeping the peace, not making it a practice of inappropriately profiling people and breaking the peace by harassing them without probable cause. Black people are especially victims of such harassment by law enforcement. Most Back males have been stopped by polices for one reason or another in their lives. The vast majority of them are perfectly law abiding citizens being treated as if this was a police state.
However when profiling is done properly it can be an invaluable tool for determining the personality of a person just by observing a person’s appearance and behavior. Unfortunately there are very few people equipped with the education, knowledge, and experience needed for effective profiling. This is a branch of psychology and criminality that is quite new. TV programs glorifying such professionals greatly exaggerate their skills but it continues to be a developing science and hopefully in the near future will achieve the success of TV programs. Profiling is still an imperfect science and mistakes are often made. But it is far better than the amateur profiling most of us do all the time.
Everyone profiles people whom they are not familiar with. It is important to keep in mind the limitations of one’s ability to accurately characterize an individual simply by their appearance and body language. I’m sure we can recount many instances in our lives where we have judged people completely wrong whether we were conned by a nicely dressed and speaking con artist or misjudged a good person because their appearance was and mannerisms were rough. I have certainly had my share of misjudging people I met for the first time.
Also judging people because of their skin color or gender preference might exclude you from knowing someone who could bring real value to your life. Very nice and interesting people come with different skin colors and sexual orientations. LGBT people usually do not push their sexual preference on other people unless they perceive them having such tendencies.