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PSYC39H3 (200)
Chapter 1

PSYC39H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Forensic Psychology, Biosocial Theory, Social Learning Theory

Course Code
David Nussbaum

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Chapter 1
Forensic psychology: A field of psychology that deals with all aspects of human behaviour as it
relates to the law or legal system.
Much of the ongoing debate about how forensic psychology should be centred on whether the
definition should be narrow or broad.
oA narrow definition of forensic psychology would focus on certain aspects of the field
while ignoring other, potentially important, aspects.
oFor example, a narrow definition of forensic psychology might focus on applied aspects
while ignoring the experimental research that many psychologists (who refer to
themselves as forensic psychologists) conduct.
oAmerican Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP) and the American Psychology-Law
Society (AP-LS), define the field in a narrow fashion.
These associations have defined forensic psychology as “the professional
practice by psychologists within the areas of clinical psychology, counselling
psychology, neuropsychology, and school psychology, when they are engaged
regularly as experts and represent themselves as such, in an activity primarily
intended to provide professional psychological expertise to the judicial system.
Thus, according to the ABFP and AP-LS definition, any psychologist who
provides expertise to the judicial system but happens to work in an area of
psychology outside the scope of their definition, such as social psychology,
would not technically be doing work in the area of forensic psychology.
oBy their very nature, broad definitions of forensic psychology are less restrictive than
narrow definitions.
oA broad definition of the discipline is:
(a)The research endeavour that examines aspects of human behaviour directly related
to the legal process.
(b)The professional practice of psychology, within, or in consultation wit, a legal system
that embraces both civic and criminal law.
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 system.
On the research side, a frequent task for the clinical forensic psychologist might involve the
validation of an assessment tool hat has been developed to predict the risk of an offender being
violent (e.g., an offender to assist the parole board in making an accurate determination of
whether that offender is likely to pose a risk to the community.)
oOther issues that clinical forensic psychologists are interested in may include, but are
certainly not limited to, the following:
Divorce and child custody meditation
Determinations of criminal responsibility (insanity) and competency to stand trial
Providing expert testimony on questions of a psychological nature
Personnel selection (e.g., for law enforcement agencies)
Conducting critical incident stress debriefings
Designing and conducting treatment programs for offenders
As in the United States, a clinical forensic psychologist in Canada must be a licensed clinical
psychologist who has specialized in the forensic area.
The educational requirements to obtain a license vary across provinces and territories, but some
form of graduate training is always required.

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Forensic psychiatry: A field of medicine that deals with all aspects of human behaviour as it
relates to the law or legal system.
Forensic anthropology: Forensic anthropologists examine the remains of deceased victims to
determine key facts about them such as their gender, age, appearance, and so forth.
Forensic linguistics: Forensic linguists examine the spoken and written word in an attempt to
assist criminal investigators. For example, they can asses the language in suicide notes to
determine whether the notes are fake or genuine.
Forensic chemistry: Forensic chemists study the chemical aspects of crime scenes, which can
include analyses of paint particles, dyes, fibres, and other materials.
Forensic ordontology: Forensic ordontologists study the dental aspects of criminal activity,
which can include indentifying deceased victims through dental records and determining whether
bite marks were made by an adult or child.
Forensic pathology: Forensic pathologists examine the remains of dead bodies in an attempt to
determine the time and cause of death through physical autopsy.
Forensic entomology: Forensic entomologists are concerned with how insects can assist with
criminal investigations. For example, they can help determine when someone died based on an
analysis of insect presence (e.g., different types of insects will be present on a corpse at different
points in time) and/or insect development (e.g., certain insects who are attracted to corpses soon
after death develop in predictable, set cycles).
A second role for the forensic psychologist is that of experimenter, or researcher.
Experimental forensic psychologists: Psychologists who are broadly concerned with the study
of human behaviour as it relates to the law or legal system.
oThe list of research issues that are of interest to this type of forensic psychologist include
the following:
Examining the effectiveness of risk assessment strategies
Determining 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 style on memory recall
Examining the effect of stress management interventions on police officers
oNot only do clinical forensic psychologists differ from experimental forensic psychologists
in terms of what they do, but they also differ in terms of their training.
A third role for the forensic psychologist, which is far less common than the previous two but no
less important, is that of a legal scholar.
According to Brigham (1999), forensic psychologists in their role as legal scholars would most
likely engage in scholarly analyses of mental health law and psychologically oriented legal
movements, whereas their applied work would most likely center around policy analysis and
legislative consultation.
Psychology and the law: The use of psychology to examine the operation of the legal system.
Psychology in the law: The use of psychology in the legal system as that system operates.
Psychology of the law: The use of psychology to examine the law itself.
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