Thursday, January 9, 2014
Lecture 1 – Introduction
• Human behaviour lies at the heart of psychology and law
• Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes in an
attempt to understand, predict, and in some cases control human behavior (Kassin,
What is Psychology?
• Psychology is the scientific 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.
• The legal system is comprised of a body of laws, rules, regulations, and
• Govern us as consumers in the market
• May not be stand up to our expectations
• States with the death penalty have a highr murder rate – controversial
• The legal system is designed to govern, regulate and control human behavior
(Ogloff & Finkelman, 1999).
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
Psychology is involved with the law in three main areas:
• 1) Investigations: interviews, interrogations, profiling, risk and threat assessment,
• 2) The courts: fitness and insanity, expert witness, trial consultant, research, etc….
• 3) The Penal system: assessment and treatment of inmates, education programs,
correctional psychologist, research, etc…
Differences between Law and Psychology
Stare decisis: should do if at all possible Creativity: innovation, doing new things the same thing we did before • Based on foundations of previous
• To follow the past, the precedent studies
• Decide cases same way, same
• Same cases happens later with
similar circumstances, sentence the
Hierarchical: idea that the Empirical: only bound by empirical data
laws/governing laws in Canada are • Consistent supporting evidence
bound by higher court system needed
• The federal and supreme courts • This is what the data says, and this
have the last say, their say is is my interpretation of the data
binding on other courts
• Interpretation needs to be supported
by proving methods were reliable
Adversarial: 2 sides fighting to win and Experimental: experimental research,
the winner is our new version of the bias, error
truth • We want to find an objective truth if
• Whoever the better debater may at all possible
win • The “real” truth
• The truth comes from what we’ve
got from the evidence so never
know 100% for sure
Prescriptive: telling someone how to Descriptive: describing how someone is