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What is a psychological autopsy?

What is a psychological autopsy?

May 26, 2024

Figuratively, reviving a person who has committed suicide is possible. There are cases of death in which the motives or the evidence are not very clear, so it is not known with certainty if it is a suicide or a homicide.

The psychological autopsy is developed for the elucidation of doubtful deaths . We will talk about it in this article.

  • Related article: "Forensic Psychology: definition and functions of the forensic psychologist"

What is the psychological autopsy?

The psychological autopsy is a process that involves a multidisciplinary work that brings together doctors, criminologists and psychologists. Is an important technique used within the field of forensic psychology . It is useful to determine causes or solve cases of suicide, and the development of this technique began by addressing the need to define the cause of death in doubtful cases and in those that the medical autopsy does not have sufficient evidence.


The participation of the Psychology area is fundamental for the process of analysis and decoding of clues. On many occasions, the fact that a death with dubious causes is studied from a single perspective or profession is not enough. Needed a team made up of different health professionals so that each one analyzes the case from his point of view and thus a more accurate and more complete result can be reached.

The intervention of the forensic psychologist in the clarification of the case is fundamental, since when he goes to the scene of the crime, this one can start to generate a sketch of the subject's personality just by looking at the organization of your space, furniture, ornaments, etc. When it came to achieving it, Schneidman, author of the technique, proposed three fundamental categories to investigate and analyze: the what, the how and the why.


One of the main functions of the psychologist is interpret the signs and clues within a crime scene . In addition to the medical autopsy, it is required to have access to the medical record, medical and legal records, notes, letters, diary or anything else that can provide more information about how the subject felt, the thoughts he had before his death, own ideas and learned. The process starts from the same place as the facts, in which not only objective traces can be raised, but also psychological traces that are printed in the places where the victim was and in the people who interacted with it.

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The MAPI technique

Inside the psychological autopsy, The most used and most effective technique is MAPI , whose acronym means the different areas of the individual in question that will be studied.


1. Mental

It refers to intelligence, memory, attention, judgment and cognition. With this there can be reference of the cognitive skills and abilities .

2. Emotional or affective

Analyze the development and changes in mood. It's fundamental because it's the one study the mental state of the subject , if there was any predisposition to suicidal behaviors or ideas or in itself that there were recurrent depressive episodes or the presence of some other disorder.

3. Psychosocial

It focuses on the background, since he was born, how was his childhood, adolescence, etc. In the same way, it is inquired about the relations with people of not close circles and important changes throughout his life.

4. Interpersonal

It focuses on family relationships and with friends . The importance of this is that you can contact people who were close to the deceased and contribute to the research process. Now ... how should the interviews be carried out with the friends and relatives of the deceased? Let's see it

Interviews with people close to the deceased

Carry outinterviews with people close to the deceased It is the final step of this tool so used in psychological autopsy. Doing this has two main purposes:

  1. Know more about the victim , his personality, character, daily activities and everything of which there is no written record or physical evidence.
  2. It serves as a therapeutic way for family and close friends , since they often express their feelings and thoughts about the situation.

It is established that the optimum time to carry them out is from 1 to 6 months after the event. Doing them before can be counterproductive because the feelings and emotions are still very recent and can affect the interpretation and the way they remember the facts. And doing them after the stipulated time, can cause the memories are no longer clear and people try to redo them or fill in the blanks they have with facts or incorrect or false elements.

The psychological autopsy is a new tool , barely developed in the 21st century, but in a short time it has proved useful in many cases where medicine has not been sufficient to determine the causes of death. Any process related to human beings, until death, is extremely complex due to the nature of man. This is why it needs to be approached from a broad and multidisciplinary perspective.


Burary Death Mystery | Cops Plan to Go for | Psychological Autopsy (May 2024).


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