Week 1 - An Introduction to Forensic Psychology
• Forensic Psychology is a field of psychology that deals with all aspects of human behaviour as
it relates to the law or legal system.
○ Experts do not agree on whether forensic psychologyshould be narrowly or broadly
○ A narrow definition would focus on certain aspects while ignoring other important
○ Many leading psychologists prefer to define it narrowly to include the primarily clinical
aspects of forensic assessment,treatment and consultation.
• The only individuals who should call themselvesforensic psychologists are those individuals
engaged in clinical practice (i.e. assessing, treating or consulting) within the legal system.
○ Any psychologist who spends all of their time conducting forensics-relatedresearch
would technically not fit under this definition.
• Textbookapplied a broad definition with less restrictions
Roles of a Forensic Psychologist
• Individuals who call themselvesforensic psychologists are always interested in issues that arise
between psychology and the law.
• Forensic psychologistscan take on many roles, such as clinician and researcher and legal
○ Often concerned with the assessment and treatmentof people with mental disorders
within the contextof the law.
○ May research things such as the efficacy of certain tools used to assess offenders.
○ Assessing whether offenders can be successfully released into the community.
○ Must be licensed psychologists, mostrequire a doctorate. Applicants must write a
licensing exam and preceptorship.
○ Difference between forensic psychology and forensic psychiatry?
Psychiatristsare medical doctors.
Receive different training.
Psychiatriststend to view mental illness from a medical perspective,psychologists
view it as a product of an individual's personality,physiology, and environment.
○ Concerned with mental health issues as they pertain to the legal system. Also concerned
with any research issue that relates to the law or legal system.
○ Graduate research will be focused primarily on a topic related to forensic psychology.
○ Requires expertise in many additional areas such as memoryprocessing, decision
making, and organizational issues.
• Legal Scholar
○ Most likely engage in scholarly analyses of mental health law and psychologically
oriented legal movements.Their applied work would most likely center around policy
analyses and legislative consultation.
Relationship Between Psychology and Law
• Psychologyand law can relate to each other in 3 ways:
○ PsychologyAND the law
○ PsychologyIN the law
○ PsychologyOF the law
• PsychologyAND the law
○ Psychologyis viewed as a separate discipline to the law, examining and analyzing various
componentsof the law and the legal system from a psychological perspective.
○ Research that falls under this heading focus on assumptions made by the law or the legal
system. I.e. "are eyewitnessesaccurate?" "are judges fair in the way they hand down
○ Answers from research can be communicatedto the legal community.
• PsychologyIN the law
○ Involves the use of psychological knowledge in the legal system.
○ Can take many forms, such as a psychologistusing his/her expertise to provide expert
testimonyconcerning someissue of