Practical Application Of Locard’s Principle

I have been fascinated with forensic science for many years. I love the science behind solving crimes. I also love the psychology involved in committing crimes. So what happens when I have too much time to theorise? Naturally, I combine the two together and come up with using forensic science theories to explain elements of real life. And you thought I was going to write about how I would commit the perfect crime. Oh, that’s another post entirely.


Picture it . . . 1920 . . . forensic scientist Edmond Locard hard at work, doing  . . . whatever it was that he was doing in 1920. Actually, what Locard was doing would end up being incredibly significant to the field of forensic science. It was in 1920 that Locard formalised his ‘contact trace theory’, which in its simplest form, says that every contact leaves a trace. His theory is still a mainstay of current forensic investigation. But can that theory also translate to ‘non-forensic’ life situations? The answer, I believe, is an unequivocal yes.

Locard’s Principle focuses on physical contact. Just by using our common sense, we know that if we touch an object, a part of us is left behind, and in many instances, the object we touch also leaves something behind on us. So let’s extend that theory beyond the physical to contact that may imprint on us in other ways such as, emotionally, mentally, and psychologically.

Every day we make contact with many people. It’s hard not too. Our interactions vary from person to person based on a number of factors including such things as the relationship we have with the other person, our emotions at the time of the interaction, and also circumstances outside of our control. When you consider the contact you have with other people from the point of view of a forensic scientist employing Locard’s Principle, suddenly every thing you do or say carries so much more importance.

Within your hands, you hold the power to make someone’s day infinitely better, or to crush them completely. I’m not going to preach to you about power and what it does to people, all I will say is how you choose to use that power is up to you. Me, I like to go by the old adage of treating people as I want to be treated. Granted, that’s not always possible. Sometimes, people bring out the worst in me, and I am unable to stop myself from responding in kind. I never said I was an angel. Every contact leaves a trace, be it positive and uplifting, or negative and derisive.

Consider the repercussions of domestic violence, whether the abuse is physical, psychological, or emotional. The effects can be carried with victims forever. Children who have seen a parent being abused are often scarred by that abuse. The taunts of schoolyard bullies remain in the minds of the bullied – yes, speaking from experience (bullied, not bully). Victims of crime can suffer the fallout for years afterwards. All examples of contact trace theory that result in negative trace being left upon people.

On the other hand, a helping hand is also rarely forgotten. A kind word might be treasured for a lifetime. A smile has the potential to brighten a day. A thank you, a simple hello, a complex I love you, an I’m thinking of you, a random act of kindness, or a word of encouragement may alter the way someone chooses to feel about him or herself. Small, kind acknowledgements of the existence of another leave a lasting impression. Think of a time when someone did or said something that lifted your spirits. It’s still clear in your memory, isn’t it? And when you think about it, you probably still feel as good now as you did when it happened.

Here’s another example – consider how you behave via your choice of social networking site. What do you say to others, and how do you say it? Will your contact leave a positive trace on your friend? Or, will they wish that they’d never met you? Think about that one message, email, or tweet that was sent to you by a friend that you neglected to respond to. It happens. You were engaged in many conversations at the one time, maybe you overlooked a message, or you didn’t think it was worth responding to, or maybe you just didn’t see it. Think about how the person who sent it to you feels because you didn’t take the time to respond. And you needn’t have replied in depth – a 🙂 , or LOL might have sufficed. Contact. Trace. If only momentarily.

Of course, life is full of contact and interactions with others, and many of those interactions can be considered minor, and therefore, leave little trace on both parties. However, that shouldn’t stop you from considering what sort of a trace you want to leave on the people you’re dealing with, because yes, every contact leaves a trace. What sort of trace is left depends entirely upon you.

So, reflecting on Locard’s Principle and my own life . . .

Recently, as many of you are aware, I have met a number of people who have left an indelible trace on my life. Life changing, in fact. How many of you can say the same thing? That you’ve met people who have changed your life for the better. How many of you have told those people what they have done? How their contact with you has left the most wonderful trace evidence on your life. I imagine that not many of you have. Quite possibly you don’t have the courage to do so, or you think it’s a tad passé to tell someone that they’ve changed your life, maybe you haven’t had the time, or didn’t know how to say the words. Or, maybe you’re a little like me, emotionally retarded, and you figure that people will just instinctively know how much they mean to you. Here’s tip #1: they won’t know until you tell them. And tip #2: what an incredible feeling it is to tell someone how brilliant you think he or she is. So do it today. Try it out. It takes a couple of minutes. And then maybe your words or actions will be the positive contact that leaves the indelible trace on a life.

I have been accused of being saccharine, excessively sweet, over-emotional, because I choose to tell people I know that they are brilliant, outstanding, and awesome, or that I care about them, or because I choose to respond to every message sent to me via my preferred social networking site. However, my ego taking hold, I know that I am an excellent judge of character, and I choose to surround myself with people who are all of those things. As far as I’m concerned, life’s too short to be stuck with a bunch of people who aren’t good for me, who don’t believe in and value similar things, and who don’t bring out the best in me.

I do try to remind myself of Locard’s Principle every day. I do consciously try to make sure that my interactions with people fall more on the positive side than the negative. It’s by no means easy; in fact, it’s a constant challenge. After all, one can’t be kind and happy all of the time . . . that’d be just a little bit creepy, and may be an indication of someone with a serious problem.

However, I can’t help but think that when I interact with someone, it may be the last time they ever have contact with me. And how do I really want them to remember me? As intelligent, maybe funny, caring towards animals (particularly dogs, elephants, and gorillas) – okay, and people – and a brilliant writer would all be a start . . . but I’d be happy if people would remember a time when I made them smile, or laugh, or feel better about themselves. I’d be happy if they remembered me as someone who was honest, who listened and had time for them, saw the best in them and chose to overlook the worst. And I’d be stoked if they thought that I was a half-decent friend. I want the trace that I leave behind to be worth remembering.

Ah, but maybe I’m just a bit too idealistic, thinking that caring and encouraging words, and random acts of kindness can change the world.

The science guy was right.

Every contact leaves a trace – Locard’s Principle, Edmond Locard.

Leave a comment and let me know when contact with someone else has left a trace on you . . .oh, keep it clean! Yeah, you know who I’m talking to! ;D


About Danielle

I like to write. What more is there to know?
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5 Responses to Practical Application Of Locard’s Principle

  1. Jill says:

    Danielle, I have to say that every time we talk on Twitter you bring a smile to my face and I have no doubt that the interaction you have with *most* people is nothing short of positive, encouraging and most of the time absolutely hilarious! You’re a true gem and a fantastic writer 😀

  2. Oh Dani, I would like to second Jill by saying. You have undoubtedly left a wonderful, positive and uplifting effect on Lisa and me. Whether it is a shout out for each other, share in a joke, or tap into a serious topic. Regardless of what happens in the future, our memories of you will always be one of pure admiration and affection.

    To ever-lasting friendship, best always, Stuart 🙂

  3. Schnicka says:

    Don’t ever compromise who you are for anyone… Forget the gloves – leave a trace and be confident with it. Now I’m off to Google this Locard bloke and his Principle and then read your other entries – you’ve got me in! d’oh!

  4. jason says:

    honestly, dani, i never really considered the “connections” through social media as a way that we leave a trace on others or receive a trace on our hands – but it’s always with the touching – this is how receive the mark of cain, or the thing that makes us write

  5. pennyjars says:

    This is great! I’ve thought about this many times and struggle with teaching my children the basics of respect, but hearing “Locard’s Principle” gives it an entirely different layer. Excellent 🙂

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