PSY328 – Psychology and Law
What is Law and Psychology?
It is a perspective on research and practice in two areas that overlap in many ways. Law is an invisible boundary that
surrounds us at all times. New laws are created all the time. In this sense, the ‘trunk’ remains the same, but
‘branches’ and ‘leaves’ keep growing (tree analogy).
Psychology and the Law
The law nearly touches every aspect of our daily lives :
buying a textbook: copyright laws
driving your car: obeying street laws and speeding laws; law to be insured; need license to drive and
renewal; confidence to drive must be tested
taking an aspirin
getting dressed : laws restricting what to wear and when
Ignorance of law is not a defense, despite most of us being blissfully ignorant to the laws that exist. Laws have
federal laws like the Canadian Criminal Code apply everywhere in Canada
provincial laws: how we handle judicial systems, properties, custody, insanity definitions
bylaws: differ from one community to the next based on what happens in those communities
We don’t trust people to do the right thing, because humans have a history of not doing the right thing.
Human behavior lies at the heart of psychology and the law. Psychology and the law are both interested in what
humans do, although through two different perspectives.
Psychology – is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes in an attempt to understand, predict, and in
some cases control human behavior (Kassin, 1998) .
Knowledge is power, and we use it to make predictions (risk assessments). In lots of prisons, prisoners go ‘crazy’
from time to time and are thus put in a quiet room that is painted pink. Why is it painted pink? The color helps to
soothe you and make you less aggressive. Psychology is applied in a practical way in the legal system (forensics).
We attempt to understand the legal system, as well.
What is psychology?
Psychology is the s cientific study of behavior: “anything an animal or human does, feels, or thinks .” Psychology is a
science firmly based in empirical research . Psychology has broad application .
Humans are difficult to study. Random assignment is not always foolproof and possible. Psychology requires more
sophisticated research designing and statistical designs. Many things must be controlled for, which can get difficult. Science is just a perspective to look at things with which we can make causal and correlational conclusions. There is
broad application of psychology even in the legal system – forensics, and in economics, neuroscience, biology,
chemistry, political science, and philosophy. Psychology talks about people, thus it applies everywhere.
Lawyers can tell you how things may happen and inform you of laws. Much depends on discretion, so there is not a
lot of certainty.
The legal system is comprised of a body of laws, rules, regulations, and procedures .
Regulations: administrative laws (academic offences at universities – goes to Dean’s office, then arbitration hearing
which a lawyer preps you for)
Procedures: buying things online, terms and privacy (which no one really reads)
The legal system is designed to govern, regulate, and control human behavior (Ogloff & Finkelman, 1999).
Need laws to ensure people treat each other nicely (loving when getting married, but total opposite when getting
divorced) even when they are inclined to do so.
Laws are not effective in preventing people from doing something (rape). Why? Behaviour is situationally bound
(extreme situations result in extreme actions).
Death penalty does not help, may even increase murder rates. You can drink but at a certain age. You can drive at a
certain age. Prescription drugs are legal, but they are the most addictive drugs. Laws reflect society’s norms, values,
and culture. Laws can be incredibly unjust.
Psychology and the Law
Concerns “issues arising out of the relationship between human behavior and the law, legal system, and legal
process ” (Weiner, 1997)
Psychologists working in law and psychology study empirically the assumptions about human behavior that underlie
the operation and functioning of the law .
Social scientists assess the reasonableness and validity of the evidence
Who writes the laws and at what level? Parliament enacts new legislation, but it is discussed in the Senate. Municipal
laws go through the city council.
Jury nullification: when the jury takes the law into their hands. It is a way of society saying this is not what we want.
Even if the accused is guilty, the jury proclaims them not guilty. For instance, abortion laws were changed from
abortion being illegal to the laws against abortion being struck down completely.
When information is mentioned, but then withdrawn, the judge must tell the jury to disregard the information; however,
this makes jurors think about it even more (hard to ignore the information). Those in law do not care about changing
How is psychology applied in the three areas: investigations, courts, and penal system? 1. Investigations (or policing): interviews, interrogations, profiling, risk and threat assessment, research , etc .
Who should be put where? Is the person a long term offender? Should they be put on bail? Is the person a
real threat? Are there any precautions we should take? Research on all of these things. Forensics: working
with police involved in traumatic situations, hostage negotiations, talking someone down who wants to
commit suicide, etc. When police deal with people with mental health issues, they don’t do a great job
because these people are largely incapable of following directions, and things go wrong unless someone
experienced in dealing with these people is present. Things only escalate if you push them to it.
2. The courts: fitness and insanity – is the person fit to stand trial? Insanity defense does not happen often.
Expert witness: more judges are allowing scientists and experts to come in and provide information to the
jury that the jurors would not be aware of. Eyewitness testimony: most people don’t understand how memory
works. The difference between battered person’s syndrome and selfdefense. Trial consultant: usually hired
by wealthy companies or individuals to avoid payouts; this would avoid more payouts in turn. There are also
people who work with victims of crimes. They sit with the victim both before and after the victim gives his/her
testimony. Research occurs on all of these things as well.
3. The penal system: assessment and treatment of inmates, education programs, correctional psychologist,
research , etc. There are a lot of mental health issues in prisons. The best way to rehabilitate people is to
educate them, so that they can get a job when they leave prison. However, people are not interested in
educating prisoners and there is not a good press. Prisons instead become a place to become a better
criminal. Specifically teaching people how to be psychologists who work in prisons. People who research all
these things, including when do we get false confessions; but there aren’t a lot of people concerned about
Differences between Law and Psychology
1. Stare decisis vs. Creativity
a. Law is based on following the past – precedents
b. Psychology is not bound by the past, although past research is used to fuel further research. Do
not have to follow what has been done in the past
2. Hierarchical vs. Empirica l
a. Federal court (Supreme Court) has the last say and the ruling is binding to all courts under them.
Each level of court is bound by the higher level. Appeals can only be made on an error of the law,
not whether the person is guilty or not guilty.
b. Psychology is based on what research tells us and where it takes us. But, it is not free of politics,
which exists everywhere, that humans exist. In general though, science does not care.
3. Adversarial vs. Experimenta l
a. The law is not interested in truth. Each side presents a skewed truth that is biased to that side. The
result is choosing one of these extreme truths. Statutes are used but decisions are made based on
common laws, although discretion and interpretation exists. The law is contentious. Divorce
mediations are not really used.
b. Psychology encourages collaboration despite two separate theories existing. Usually end up
needing both theories to explain, rather than picking one over the other. 4. Prescriptive vs. Descriptive
a. Laws tell you what to do and what not to do, but there are always exceptions: murder versus
soldiers killing people in war.
b. Psychologists tell you what you should do, but do not enforce it.
5. Idiographic vs. Nomothetic
a. Each case is specific and unique, and should be decided on its own merits. Although other cases
are looked at, must keep in mind the present case is the one of interest.
b. Psychology is not interested in anecdotal evidence. Want to look at the average and statistical
6. Certainty vs. Probablistic
a. You are either guilty or not guilty; liable or not liable. Wrong decisions can often be made due to
rush for a judgement (wrongful convictions). Looking for closure
b. We are not sure and we do not know since even robust findings leave openings of 0.0001 chance.
Never really gain total certainty and only believed if many areas have the same findings. Theories
are never complete by definition
7. Reactive vs. Proactive
a. The law gets involved when you’ve done something bad and have gotten caught. It reacts to what
happens after the fact
b. Psychology tries to give you information to help you make better choices and is interested in
8. Operational vs. Academic
a. The law happens all the time – it is in operation all the time
b. Psychology is more academic, although it is in operation in prevention, education, and treatment
There are 3 main areas that fall under here, although there is plenty of overlap:
Psychology in the law : where the legal system invites psychologists to play role that has been circumcised by the law
– expert testimony, eyewitnesses, trial consultants, insanity assessments, etc. Involves correctional psychologists;
this is also known as forensics
Psychology and the law : where researchers scrutinize the law and those in law. This area is not popular to the law
since the law does not want to change. The common reaction is simple denial – cognitive dissonance: want to seem
consistent. Involves any studies scrutinizing the law, those in law, and the penal system; this is the largest area Psychology of the law : studies that look at how the law has come to be. Abortion laws: how they used to be intact
and are not anymore. Marijuana laws, segregation laws, etc. What moved us towards change? How did the public
opinion shift and why?
Forensic vs. Experimental Psychology
- Clinica l
- Assessment, treatment, research
- To be a forensic psychologist you must be a clinical psychologist who works with people of special
populations (prisoners, victims, etc.) [APA]
- Nonclinica l
- Cognitive/Perceptual, Social, Developmental, Abnorma l
- Abnormal: different disorders, especially those associated with juveniles
What is Forensic Psychology?
Forensic Psychology is a research endeavor that examines aspects of human behavior directly related to the legal
• e.g., eyewitness memory and testimony , jury decision making , criminal behavior , deception detection
Social psychology informs us of how people act in groups. A jury is a group, and the person who is the foreman
typically ends up being a high status male.
Forensic Psychology is a profession.
- Clinical (counseling): Assessment and Treatmen t
- Experimental : Applied Cognitive and Social Psychology
- Expert Testimony
- Knowledge about law and the legal system : Not necessary to have a law degree to be a forensic
psychologist, although need to know about the law
Real Life Examples of Careers
Many jobs all under an umbrella of the same type
Clinical Psychologist – consultant to police
profiling, suspect interviewing, therapy for police officers when they have been in a high risk incident, assist
medical examiner in determination of the cause of death
In the U.K., apply forensic psychology in law, use psychologists and psychiatrists as profilers Social Psychologist – trial consultant
jury selection, theory of the trial, focus groups, cross examination techniques, Expert testimony
Trial consultant is big in the USA, but not in Canada – may run mock trials, surveys (is pretrial publicity an
issue), help to decide what defence should say
Mediator – resolves legal disputes and could be a lawyer or a psychologist; mediation of all types; can be appointed
as an arbitrator
Counseling Psychologist – threat assessmen t (upcoming officials, marathons, etc.), crisis intervention (suicidal
people, hostage situation, mentally ill people)
Correctional psychologist – assessment and treatment of offenders, Fitness and Insanity, Advisor to Parole Board
(help make decisions of what parole conditions should be, who should be let out or not)
Count the number of ‘f’s in the following text
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE
There are 6 ‘f’s
The Law in Canada
Correlational studies are not experimental studies. Establishes whether there is a relationship between two or more
variables but because the variables occur together does not mean there is causality so CANNOT INFER
CAUSALITY : Need random assignment to infer causality. Ethical issues: can’t do any harm.
1. Directionality problem: Which direction does the relationship go in and what other variables are there that
can affect the results
2. Potential for a third variable (confound) : We can work some way to compensate the known third variables,
but impossible to compensate for every single one because don’t know all Does high selfesteem lead to high GPA or vice versa ? We cannot say . OR is there a third unknown variable that
causes both high selfesteem and high GPA ? We do not know. This third variable is known as a ‘confound’ . If we
know what a possible third variable is we can control it in an experimental approach by controlling for it either in the
design or in our statistical analysis.
• Considered the most powerful tool for determining causal relationships
• In psych we’re interested in group and individual differences, but most interested in causality which is
important and applicable to forensics and the truths/laws of our world
• Random Assignment: ensures that every participant has an equal chance of being assigned to any of the
• This minimizes the chance that a preexisting difference between groups is the cause of the “experimental
• Some outside variable can effect results of the study
• By using probability to assign people, it suggests that all variables possessed by human beings will be
• Which is why we use probability stats b/c random occurrences happen & RA doesn’t work in some rare
cases – tells us how much of a fluke exists
Independent variable is what is manipulated by the experimenter (mood induction). It determines how the groups in
the experiment are divided. May be a classification or individual difference variable – cannot be manipulated but
experimenter can divide subjects into groups (high versus low selfesteem). Manipulated variable is “true experiment”, while an Individual Difference variable “quasi experiment” which is when someone is in a group or not
(gender, psychopaths, depressed people) so does not use random assignment.
Dependent variable is what the experimenter measures
Often when people come in for a study we do not tell them exactly what we are interested in studying or we may even
tell the subject we are studying something that we are not (this is called deception or a cover story) – when subjects
know exactly what the experimenter is studying they may behave in a certain way in line with what they think is
expected OR they may behave in an opposite way. However, we always DEBRIEF subjects at the end of the study.
When people come into the lab we can’t choose what condition we want them to be in depending on how they look or
behave, otherwise we would CONFOUND our results (e.g., in treatment study I could put people who say they don’t
care what group they are in in the control group because they are more likely not to comply with the experimental
group however I would be confounding the results). We want these people spread equally across the different
groups in the study ▯RANDOM ASSIGNMENT
Any variable that cannot be placed under experimental control (e.g., treat all participants the same way except for
what you manipulated) is treated by random assignment. E.g., individual differences cannot be controlled but can be
dealt with by randomly assigning participants to each experimental group. This will balance out differences between
people between the groups (e.g., each group is likely to have equal number of confident people, tall people, etc.)
Experiments are interested in examining cause and effect relationships. However, we must always be cautious about
interpreting the results of experiments because results are open to different interpretations.
Reliability: consistency of measurements (repeatability)
Validity: measuring what you think you are measuring
The Law in Canada
Important aspects of law in Canada
Common law versus civil law: Canada is a common law country, British constitution monarchy & our laws should be
approved by the Governor General who represents the monarchy, still operating as a colony
Statutory law : Many European operate differently: civil law, which is statutory law so rely on statutes & judges decide
cases based on statutes – follow inquisitor method: finding truth while common law is adversial (each side goes to a
different side and belief is middle will be achieved and judges are neutral so cannot get involved in asking questions
to witnesses, etc.)
Stare decisis: “to abide by decided cases”: Canada relies past cases and must follow them if they are from above
courts – need a good reason to break it & likely appealable if broken no matter how good the reason
Appeal: need to show error of law was made so judges must revisit the case
Quebec: follow civil law for private law but criminal law follows common law system just like everywhere in Canada
since these laws are federal and apply everywhere (centralized) (unlike the US where each state has different laws
and is decentralized)
Common law is a hierarchical system. Courts
Supreme Court of Canada: highest & rulings binding to all other courts across the country
Court of Appeal & Federal Court of Appeal: will appeal to Supreme, rulings are binding to courts below it in the
Superior Court, Federal Court & Tax Court: also appeal to court of appeal of province they are in, federal law and
taxes, binding to courts below but same province only
Provincial Courts: lowest, speciality, only judges and no juries, can appeal to court of appeals
Administrative tribunals (appeal to Superior Court of Justice)
Areas of Legal Practice
First year of law school requires taking broad courses and after that you can specialize in areas you are interested in.
Administrative: government run, institutions
Torts/personal injury: sue someone for money when someone is injured
International: covers many laws including criminal and immigration
Constitutional: more argued in appeal courts and is pretty new due to Charter, involving how existing laws violate
freedoms and rights in the Charter
Corporate: work in banks and make money
Tax: complicated but practical
Real estate: more rules and laws so need a lawyer to do the transactions
Will and estates: some people are not in the best condition
Family (divorce/custody): what is the best for the children?
Environmental: many are still in denial about crisis
Intellectual property: things you want to protect from others; copyrights & patents
Litigation: going to court and arguing things; generally not criminal; usually small civil things; many lawyers don’t step
Criminal prosecution: crown attorney (British roots); every case is “versus the Queen”
Criminal defence: defending people who are accused, whether they are actually innocent or criminals; must ensure
things are fair
Inhouse counsel: instead of having a law firm, you pay a lawyer to be your lawyer and your employee Psychology in the Law
Criminal law (Criminal Code of Canada)
CC: based on statutory law written by Parliament and enacted by will of people or will of government in power, which
can be interpreted in different ways BUT still rely on precedents
Civil law within British common law system, which means all other law which is not criminal: torts, contracts, etc.
lawsuits of all different types, plaintiff and defendant; standard: balance of probabilities. Standard in criminal: prove
beyond reasonable doubt – subjective
Family law: psychologists are brought in to discuss things as specific as assets, or to represent best interests of child
(often can be assigned to lawyers as well) (guardium at litem)
Administrative law: tribunals involved (mediators are appointed by law, if mediation fails then go to arbitrators whose
decisions are final but can be appealed and then go to court although these are ways to avoid going to court)
Settling disputes in court
Criminal cases do not usually go to court, usually decided by plea bargaining (good since courts are already
Civil litigation and commitment
Civil litigation: litigating in courts for a criminal matter
Civil commitment: involuntary commitment from people with mental health issues, provincial
Difficult to get involuntarily commitment and usually have to wait until person actually does something (evaluated),
have to have broken law, or family/friends to hire a lawyer and make a motion to the judge that this person has to
come in for an involuntary assessment
Inquisitorial vs. Adversaria l : Civil law countries follow Inquisitorial while common law follow adversarial. Adversarial is
supposed to be more immune to government or powers being corrupted because judge is neutral, and lawyers don’t
really work for government (except prosecution) so if one is corrupt it will not influence outcome. Inquisitorial cares
about truth while adversarial really does not and most adversarial lawyers don’t ask clients about truth
The Constitution Act (1867) B.N.A . : Charter sealed wholes in act, and to strike down laws which violate our basic
human rights. Division of Powers ▯ constitution divides the power: Federal vs. Provincial responsibilities
s. 91: enacting criminal law and procedures, maintaining federal penitentiaries; power of federal government is to
enact criminal laws and should be basing them on the will of the people
s. 92: administration of justice, maintaining prisons and jails, property and civil rights; provinces are responsible for
administration of justice not creation of laws and for maintaining prisons/jails. Prison is where you go where sentence is greater than 2 years – convicted of a very serious offence. There are differences from province to province in civil
rights. Bylaws are not allowed to have criminal sanctions, only can give fines
The Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms
• ss. 52(1) – inconsistent laws are “of no force or effect”
• A law is enforced, a defendant is charged/convicted and a lawyer suggests this law violates his charter
• Goes to supreme court, which applies ss.52 saying law either contravenes (no longer in effect) or doesn’t
• s.1 – reasonable limits in a free and democratic society
• can save law and keep it if it is of will of people
• s.2: fundamental freedoms – freedom of conscious and of religion, of speech (thought, belief, and opinion
and press and media) – most important rights. In them we have free speech but hate speech is not covered
in charter (s.1)
• Charter has mechanism in it to strike down unreasonable laws but can keep them if found to be protective of
• s. 7 – “right to life, liberty, and security of the person”
• s. 8 – security against unreasonable search and seizure
• police need probable cause, if they don’t any evidence they find can be thrown out of court
• Laws are not absolute, only as good as enforced and enforcement is not easy
• s.10 right to counsel, s.11 right to be presumed innocent and have a speedy trial – courts are very
backlogged (90% plea bargaining)
Criminal Law: Intent
2 aspects to all criminal law: 1. actus reus: neglect, omission, or evil act & 2. Did you intend to do bad? Mens rea =
evil intent. Often referred to as motive
Sometimes there isn’t intent, can still act
Negligent: drinking and driving, drinking and performing surgery; recklessness: want to go home quickly but crash,
street racing and crash; wilful blindness: if you buy something stolen you can be charged for possession of stolen
item and item will be taken away – intent is read in
Offences of specific intent: I intend to kill you – first degree murder: planned
Offence of general intent: planned to have sex but not for it to be sexual assault, but person said no (did not give
Statutory rape: sex with someone (you’re 21) and other person is a minor and you are more than 2 years older than
them (told you 18 and even had fake ID), does not matter still a violation Doctrine of transferred intent: intended to kill someone and miss and kill someone instead
Offences of intent – murder
Strict liability – statutory rape
Absolute liability – speeding ▯ you’re guilty; can’t involve criminals sanctions, only fines
Types of Offences
• America: felony – serious, misdemeanour – not that serious
• Indictable offences: e.g., murder, robbery, kidnapping, treason, hijacking, piracy, etc .
• More serious; superior court of justice
• Summary conviction offences: e.g., driving offences, trespassing, petty vandalism (graffiti), etc .
• Not that serious; mostly tried by judge alone in provincial court, but can in elect in some cases to move to
higher court and have a jury trial
• Hybrid offences: e.g., assault, sexual assault, theft over/under $5000
• could be taken as indictable or summary – depends on Crown for which they want to do; Provincial court
• Assault and sexual assault have ranges from less to more serious
• Over $5000 = indictable offence, under = summary conviction
• All defendants have right to ask to have a judge try alone rather than jury trial – child molestation: most
people think you did it if you’re accused and if law is likely in your favour, better to go with judge so that law
Roles of Forensic Psychologists
Police Consulting: planning suspect interviews, generating psychological profiles, evaluating credibility of accusers or
- How to crack the person, turn into interrogations very quickly
- mostly done by profilers – not many, work wherever they’re asked not just in an area
- psychologists aid investigators in determining whether accusations are false or not
Trial Consulting: jury selection, preparing witnesses, evaluating scientific evidence, how to cross examine opposing
- pretrial publicity surveys, attempt to select best jurors for your side
- what they should wear, a show to impress 12 people - other side has studies, psychologists can come in and critique them
- psychologists can help lawyers prepare what and how to ask psychologists and other experts
Expert Witnesses: special, allowed to give opinion if judge agrees person has special understanding beyond that of
the general people
Fact Witnesses: cannot give opinion, can only give facts
Criminal responsibility, Competence to stand trial, Sentencing, Eyewitness, Trial Procedure, Civil Commitment,
Psychological damages, trademark litigation, class action suits, child custody, professional malpractice, guardianship
and conservatorship, etc.
Psychologist can be called in to assess whether person was insane when crime occurred or is insane. Insanity is a
legal term; if evident that stopped medication and know what happens to you can be liable.
In past courts are reluctant to allow experts in on eyewitness memory due to precedents; now more and more courts
allowing experts in to talk about.
Can testify whether to give bail or not, whether person is dangerous offender or not, etc.
Can be called in when family/friends put a motion, but judge has to evaluate person in that moment.
How much money should you get for psychological damages? Experts can be called in to quantify the damages.
Trademark: song sounds similar, so want compensation
Professional malpractice: psychologist had affair with patient, psychologists can be called into testify as not
Domestic Abuse and Violence
When doing a murder trial, the jury must understand everything that is going on and these are beyond them due to
myths. May be leading cause of PTSD, even more so then war
Domestic Abuse (Jones, 1994a)
This is the ones that are reported. Domestic abuse and violence leading to injury is likely underreported 89 times so
cannot be very reliant on statistics other than to assume they underreport.
Leading cause of injury in American women sending more than 1 million for medical treatment every year
Spousal violence contributes to one fourth of all suicide attempts by women
Suicide is a greater killer but is also preventable. Constant abuse and suicide are casually related.
37% of all obstetric patients are battered during pregnancy
First instance of abuse, threats, or intimidations: abuse begins at point of being married (control and ownership;
women used to be property of their father until they got married and husband became owner; wedding ring
represents ownership) when it is much harder to get out. Abuse can begin when the woman gets pregnant, similar
aspects of ownership. 50% of homeless women and children are fleeing from male violence
Largest growing population of homeless population
FBI reports that over 1400 women are killed by their partners each year (6% o f homicides) . Domestic abuse
situations often lead to homicides: I love you so much that if I can’t have you, no one can
Lenore Walker (1992) – over one third of all women will be abused at some point in their lives
16% of American families experience violence, 34% experience life threatening violence
Each year 188,000 women are injured severely enough to require serious medica l attention (Straus & Gelles, 1988)
Leaving is often very difficult and lifethreatening. Mentality of abuser: there is no other choice, can happen one way
or another, suicide option. Many women will not say what really what happened; will lie because it is shameful for
both batterer and victim, kept secret. Mostly people who do not have control over their temper
Domestic Abusers Typology
Based on what type of person you are dealing with, different rehabilitative methods:
1. Psychopathic abuser (violent/antisocial)
a. least common due to people who are psychopathic is only 1% of the population
b. equal opportunity abusers, abuse children, wives and others
c. violence, threat and intimidation are used to get what they want
d. don’t like their wants and needs thwarted
e. may have a criminal lifestyle
f. absolute need for revenge beyond all understanding and expectation – restraining order won’t stop
them, cannot restrain self
g. best liars you can find: pretend to have emotions although not necessarily to deceive them (can
master larger gestures but difficulty for small ones, like holding hands)
h. can even fool trained psychiatrists
i. although we become less violent as we age, cannot do anything about inability to feel emotions
and violence is a learned behaviour that can’t be changed just like other behaviours
2. Overcontrolled exploder (family only)
a. unable to control their temper
b. more often will be spouse alone, although children are not exempt from abuse c. even if children are not physical victims, being in a home where parent is abusive towards other is
d. one of most common types
e. likely good parents, spouse, and fun & games, BUT battering occurs on occasion such as drinking
alcohol or drugs (which is often involved in domestic violence situations) or even uncontrolled
f. behaviour cannot be controlled under influence
3. Emotionally volatile (dysphoric/borderline
a. suffers from mental illness (perhaps depression)
b. wild swings in emotions
c. seem attentive, supportive, etc. but will wane
- Sociopathic, AntiSocial, Typica l
- General signs are wanting to control: keeping from friends/family & separating from those who would
support you (isolation), tell you what you to wear, extreme jealousy, bursts of anger and/or verbal
threat/intimidation, controlling nature
- psychopathy can occur in the perfect family (huge disposition does not make difference of how your life is,
but small disposition in terrible families can lead to drug abuse and anxiety instead of psychopathy)
- extreme manipulation through either sex or emotional blackmail
- Sociopathy: psychopathy is at root, brought by some childhood trauma
Need to categorize risks to see whether to be sent to jail, rehabilitation, etc.
1. Severity : what is the severity of the abuse? Slap, choked to beaten
2. Frequency : the more often and constant, the more dangerous
3. Psychopathology : is there psychopathology? Depression, anxiety, antisocial, narcissistic? Need mental
health history of person and their family and the environment they were brought up and raise
4. Criminal history : people who have a violent criminal history are usually not very forthright, especially with
past domestic violence
Low, medium, and high risk batterers
Risk assessment will be done after conviction, parole, etc. so it is used at many times. Risk assessment guide
brought by police to the scene and can go ahead press charges without victim if victim doesn’t want to press charges.
We create patterns in our childhood and looks for others who will fill out those patterns in adulthood as resolve, but
instead likely choose people who repeat the patterns until they are able to recognize their pattern and be able to walk
away from it. It is difficult to know your own pattern, need objective view, counselling, etc. Victimology
- No consistent typology for victims
- Despite myths to the contrary domestic abuse victims cover all ethnicities, all levels of society, and all
- Could be anyone not just those with traumatic and terrible childhood events – even these people, majority
do not become victims ▯ they are vulnerable but no one is immune
A group of symptoms that occur together and characterize a disease. It is neither a medical disorder nor a legal term.
Disease or disorder are agreed upon, syndrome falls short of this so not diagnosable
Battered Woman Syndrome: a woman’s presumed reactions to a pattern of continual physical and psychological
abuse inflicted on her by her mate . BWS is not a diagnosable Mental Disorder
Battered Persons Syndrome (males being abused by wife ▯ add shame and humiliation so even less reported).
Judge uses discretion to be able to use BWS and to use an expert. More often now experts are allowed to come into
court and testify
Battered Women Syndrome
American Psychiatric Association has recognized the syndrome in amicus briefs filed as evidence in
homicide cases with selfdefense pleas.
BWS is a justification to certain crimes like homicide that is used to support defenses of selfdefense or
Has been used to support children who kill abusive parents, same sex partner homicides, rape victims who
kill attackers, coercion to participate as codefendant in a serious crime
Amicus: outside party not involved in case can provide information to add context, often a medical
Judges must be asked and have accepted these from the APA
Selfdefense is one of the defences, most often for homicide
Society is quite ignorant about it though and think why didn’t just leave – jury
Insanity is another justification
Is not just domestic abuse situation between husband and wife, same dynamics are applied to other
Components of Battered Woman Syndrome
1. Learned Helplessness : keystone to understanding why people stay in situations 2. Lowered selfesteem : hard to feel good about self when you accepted abuse, whether sexual, physical or
emotional. Police are likely to charge, but Crown is not likely to go ahead and jury is less likely to convict
when spouse is raped.
3. Impaired functioning : like living in a war zone and trapped situation. Not able to concentrate or think, on
edge all the time, and fightorflight response is always on throughout the day
4. Loss of assumption of safety : cognitive distortion, assumes everyone gets beat up or all guys beat up,
getting beat up once in a while isn’t good enough of a reason to file for divorce, in fear all the time
5. Fear and terror : you can experience it so often that you do not see it as bad anymore and begin to minimize
consequences, see it as you can accept it, feel fear in the moment but you have felt it before so become
used to it
6. Anger/rage: lose their temper and provoke violence in that moment, reclaiming power and feeling powerless
and not being able to stand for it anymore. Another cognitive distortion: feels guilt and blamed for pushing
7. Diminished alternatives : can’t leave b/c will hunt down and kill, I love him and have kids together, 360/365
are okay, loving father and great provider, stability, avoid shame of family by divorcing, avoid shame of
8. Cycle of abuse: best red flag, but need at least one battering
9. Hypervigilance: fightorflight response is on all the time
10. High tolerance for cognitive inconsistency : I love him vs. I hate him, he loves me vs. he beats me, he’s a
greater provider vs. threatens kids. Rather kill the kids then let you take them, won’t see kids again (used as
Seligman & Johnston (1973)
- dogs shocked in harness and placed in shuttlebox, 60% could not avoid shock
- Dogs shocked, learn to jump over fence
- Constant exposure to shock, with no escape
- Groups: some never jump over, some jump over after a while, some jump after the first when shocked
Learned helplessness: learned to be helpless and can be generalized to all areas of functioning
Hiroto & Seligman (1975)
- 3 groups of humans exposed to loud noise in a closet - Group 1 could find a button to stop noise : Told there is a button in here and if you find it, you can stop the
noise. Takes time to find, aversive situation and escaped … stressful. Given word puzzles to do which get
harder and harder, measuring when people give up, group one do okay but give up pretty quickly
- Group 2 nothing would stop noise : told there is a button, but cannot find it and that they are a failure.
Exposed to inescapable situation so give up really quick when doing puzzle▯ learned helplessness is
generalized from not being able to stop noise to not being able to puzzle, no motivation
- Group 3 asked to “please sit and listen” : not traumatic if just told voluntarily to sit and listen & completed
puzzle as if were not even effected
- What does this mean? Control is what plays a role – do I have control in my life?
- Subjective perception, subtle, insidious
Loose motivation to try to control events in environment or give up easily
Cognitively, ability to learn from experience is impaired
Emotional problems : Rats (ulcers), cats (ate less), dogs, (critically impaired task learning), monkeys (illness) humans
(high blood pressure, depression )
Give up quickly; become convinced of your own inability to make things better
Cognitive Qualifiers of Learned Helplessness
Inescapable aversive events inhibit learning . Loss of sense of control – behavior has no effect on environment – this
generalizes to multiple situations▯just being told something will make someone give up quicker; loss of sense of
control: behaviour has no effect so why bother. Cognitive qualifiers (does not happen to everyone, some of us are
more susceptible although this is more situational rather than a personality trait):
1. Global vs. Specific view of negative situations : something bad happened get over it and move on vs.
something bad happened cause I have bad luck (meaning it will happen again)
2. External vs. Internal locus of control : belief have effect on world, can do something, have control vs. fate
controls world, you have no control or choice, passive ▯ less we feel like we don’t have control, the more
likely that we will give up
3. Stable vs. Transitory view of life conditions : cautious optimism ▯ things will be always bad/good vs. things
will get better or will change
Cycle of Abuse
1. Tension building phase : after the honeymoon phase, tension begins to build where problems begin to occur
involving arguments and verbal abuse
2. Acute battering inciden t: tension builds until the first incident
3. Contrition phase : most are contrite (genuinely sorry) & want to make things better so use positive
reinforcement▯seems honeymoon phase is back. Negative reinforcement is even more powerful Leads back to tension phase, then get battered a second time and don’t leave, leading to development of
BWS since pattern has formed
Tension phase will occur faster and faster; less contrite because victims accepts abuse
Positive and negative reinforcement powerfully affect behavior
Not all battering relationships follow this cycle (6070%); there are always exceptions
Forensic Assessment of BWS
Selfreports, medical records, interviews with family, friends, coworkers and others
- Helps to have medical records, documents that this is happening
- Tell others b/c not your fault, but the person who did it
- Need people to know about it rather to think you were a perfect couple
- In reality, don’t tell anyone because of fear and shame
Abusive Behavior Observation Checklist (Dutton, 1992)
- This checklist is a better assessment of risk
Battering leaves deeper scars, worse than physical ones
1. Coercion and threats : you can go but won’t have the kids/money; I’ll kill the kids, you & myself
2. Intimidation : physical = look, bullying – demoralizing & view suicide as option
3. Emotional abuse (humiliation ): strips victim naked and puts them outside
4. Isolation : not allowed to talk to friends/family, no phone/credit card/money/transportation, far away from
5. Minimization, denial, and blaming : slap, bruises, asked for it, bloody nose but not broken, I didn’t do it, victim
attacked & I defended myself, victim ran into a door
6. Use of children to control spouse
7. Use of “male privilege ” : as man of the house, word is rule; women are property and bound to servitude once
married and pregnant
8. Economic/resource abuse : controlling financially by giving only enough money
Battered Woman Defense
Most battered women who kill get convicted – killing abuser while asleep; jury assumes a reasonable person would
have left with kids; some women claim domestic abuse to get away with murder
Only 1/3 of homicides by battered women take place during a battering incident Problem of imminence and reasonableness: requi