Forensic Psychology 2400: Chapter 1:An Introduction to Forensic Psychology
Forensic Psychology: a field of psychology that deals with all aspects of human
behaviour as it relates to the law or legal system.
What is forensic psychology?
• There is generally no accepted definition, but is often referred to as legal
psychology or criminological psychology.
• It is a specialization “it was ultimately decided that the petition…should define
forensic psychology narrowly to include the primarily clinical of forensic
assessment, treatment and consultation.” (pg 2)
• Therefore those who are in clinical practise ex: assessing, conducting or
consulting, should only call themselves forensic psychologists within the legal
• They spend their time conducting research for example, studying the memory of
eyewitnesses, examining the decision making of jurors, and evaluating the
effectiveness of according to this narrow definition of forensic psychology.
• Bartol an Bartol defined it as “ a) the research endeavour that examines aspect of
human behaviour directly related to the legal process. B) the professional practise
of psychology within or in consultation with a legal system that embraces both
civil and criminal law.” (pg 3)
• Field of psychology deals with all aspexts of human behaviour as it relates to the
law or legal system
• From Latin word “forensic” meaning of the forum
• Where the law courts of ancient Rome were held
• Human behaviour- ex how is the juror responding to evidence provided?
• Why people engage in human behaviour
The roles of a forensic psychologist:
• Forensic psychology has aspects intersected between psychology and law.
• Forensic psychologists can take on the role of a clinician or researcher.
• In reality these roles are not exclusive, an individual can take on more than one
The forensic psychology as clinician:
Clinical forensic psychologists: psychologists who are broadly concerned with the
assessment and treatment of mental health issues as they pertain to the law or legal
• This includes setting such as: schools. Prisons and treatment for mental disorders
with the context of law.
• Clinical psychologists are involved with the validation of an assessment tool that
has been developed to predict the risk of an offender being violent. • Their tasks are to sometimes decide if the offender can assist to the parole board
to determine if they are likely to pose risk to the community if released.
• Concerned with mental health issues and the legal system
• Both research and treatment
• Focus on:Assessment and Treatment
• Must be licensed
• May do both research and treatment, but they are usually assessing a certain
individual, and to determine if that person could be released back into society.
• They also determine if their treatment is making the criminal to repeat offences or
• Other tasks include: -divorce and child custody medication
-determinations of criminal responsibility (insanity) and
fitness to stand trial
-providing expert testimony on questions of psychological
-personnel selection (for law enforcement agencies)
-conducting critical incident stress debriefing with police
-designing and conducting treatment programs for
Forensic Psychiatry: a field of medicine that deals with all aspects of human behaviour
as it relates to the law or legal system.
Other forensic disciplines on page 6
The forensic psychologists as researcher:
Experimental forensic psychologists: psychologists who are broadly concerned with the
study of human behaviour as it relates to the law or legal system.
• The examine the effectiveness of risk-assessment strategies
• Determine what factors influence jury decision making
• Developing and testing better ways to conduct eyewitness lineups
• Evaluating offender and victim treatment programs
• Studying the impact of questioning stle on eyewitness memory recall
• Examining the effect of stress management interventions on police offenders
• Study human behaviour as it relates to the law and legal system
• Ph.D. level graduate training
The forensic psychologist as a legal scholar:
• this role is less common The relationship between psychology and law:
• Craig Haney a professor at California U suggested that there are three primary
way in which psychology and the law can relate to eachother: listed below
Psychology and the law: the use of psychology to examine the operation of the legal
• “Psychology is viewed as a separate discipline to the law, examining and
analysing various components of the law and the legal system from a
psychological perspective” (Bartol & Bartol, 1994, p.2).
• Questions like, are eyewitnesses accurate? Do certain interrogation techniques
cause people to falsely confess?Are judges fair in the way they hand down
sentences? And is it possible to accurately predict whether an offender will be
violent when released from prison?
Psychology in the law: the use of psychology in the legal system as that system operates
• Psychology in the law involves the use of psychological knowledge in the legal
Psychology of the law: the use of psychology to examine the law itself
• It addresses the question: what role should the police play in domestic disputes?
History of forensic psychology:
Eyewitness testimony an