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
A narrow definition of forensic psychology might focus on applied aspects while ignoring the experimental
research that many psychologists conduct
•Thus according to 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.
•Unlike the narrow definition of forensic psychology focuses solely on the application of psychology to the
legal system, this definition does not restrict forensic psychology to applied issues. It also focuses on the
research that is required to inform applied practice in the field of forensic psychology.
Roles of a forensic psychologist
Clinical forensic psychologists: psychologists who are broadly concerned with the assessment of mental
health issues as they pertain to the law or legal system (research and practice in a wide variety of settings,
such as schools, prisons, hospitals, and so forth)
•Issues such as
divorce and child custody mediation
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.
•Must be licensed clinical psychologist who has specialized in the forensic area (Canada & USA)
•The forensic specialization typically takes the form of an intense period of supervised practice after the
completion of the required degree, in an applied forensic setting of some kind under the watchful eye of an
experienced clinical supervisor.
•The last step of the licensing process is a comprehensive exam, which often involves an oral component.
•Forensic psychiatry: a field of medicine that deals with all aspects of human behaviour as it relates to the
law or legal system.
Trained to assess and treat individuals experiencing mental health problems who come into contact
with the law, and psychologists and psychiatrists involved in every component of the criminal justice
Often engage in similar sorts of research
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medication
Psychologists tend to view mental illness more as a product of an individual’s physiology,
personality and environment
Experimental forensic psychologists: psychologists who are broadly concerned with the study of human
behaviour as it relates to the law or legal system.
•issues such as
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