Forensic Psychology Learning Objectives

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Forensic Psychology

Learning Objectives

  • Define forensic psychology

  • List types of forensic psychologists

  • Describe relationship between Psychology and the law

  • Psychological Theories – In Brief

  • Outline history of forensic psychology

  • Determine whether psychologists should be expert witnesses in court

What is forensic psychology?

  • Narrow definitions specify certain aspects of the profession while ignoring others

  • Broad definitions are more inclusive

American Board of Forensic Psychology American Psychology-Law Society

  • Narrow:

  • The professional practice by psychologists within the areas of clinical psychology, counseling 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 expertise to the judicial system


  • Broad:

  • A research endeavor and/or a professional practice that examines human behaviour in relation to the legal system

Types of Forensic Psychologist…

  • Clinician

  • Researcher

  • Legal Scholar

…Types of Forensic Psychologists

…Types of Forensic Psychologists

Legal Scholar

  • PhD in psychology and their L.L.B. in Law

Psychology and Law

  • Psychology and the law

    • The use of psychology to study the operation of the legal system
  • Psychology in the law

    • The use of psychology within the legal system as it currently operates

Psychology and Law

  • Psychology of the law

    • The use of psychology to study the law itself

History of Forensic Psychology

  • Early research

  • Psychology in the courts

  • Forensic psychology in North America

  • Relevant court cases

1. Early Research…

  • Daniel McNaughten – 1843

    • Found not guilty by reason of insanity
    • Established McNaughten Rule

…Early Research…

  • Cattell (1895)

    • Questions about everyday observations

…Early Research…

  • Binet (1900)

    • Suggestibility in children

…Early Research

  • Stern (1910)

    • The eyewitness reality experiment

2. Psychologists in Court…

  • Von Schrenck-Notzing (1896)

    • German expert witness
    • Serial sexual murder case
    • Extensive pre-trial press coverage
    • Retroactive memory falsification
    • What we see versus what we heard

…Psychologists in Court…

  • Varendonck (1911)

    • Belgian murder trial
    • Children giving different evidence
    • Showed inaccurate recall in children

…Psychologists in Court

  • Marbe (1922)

    • Provides testimony in civil trial
    • Involved train wreck
    • Conducted reaction time studies

3. FP in North America…

  • Munsterberg (1908)

    • On the Witness Stand
    • Psychology and the legal system
    • Resistance from legal scholars
    • Pushed psychology into legal arena
    • Father of forensic psychology

Law Schools

  • Marston (1917)

    • First Professor of Legal Psychology
    • Research on lie detection

…FP in North America

  • 1909: First clinic for delinquents

  • 1913: Psychology in prisons

  • 1917: Tests for police selection

4. Court Cases…

  • State v. Driver (1921)

    • “It is yet to be determined that psychological and medical tests are practical, and will detect the lie on the witness stand”

…Court Cases…

  • People v. Hawthorne (1954)

    • Standard for determining expert status is not a medical degree but extent of knowledge

…Court Cases…

  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

    • Psychologists submitted a court brief outlining the detrimental effects of segregation
    • U.S. Supreme Court referenced this brief in their decision

…Court Cases

  • Jenkins v. United States (1962)

    • Case dealt with whether psychologists should be allowed to provide expert testimony on issues of mental illness
    • U.S. Supreme Court decided that some psychologists are qualified to provide such testimony

A Distinct Discipline?

  • Break

Psychological Experts Today

  • Functions of an expert witness

  • Admissibility criteria

  • Important Canadian court cases

  • Barriers to providing expert testimony

Functions of an Expert Witness

  • Aid in understanding a topic

  • Provide an opinion

Psychology Versus Law

Psychology Versus Law

Psychology Versus Law

Psychology Versus Law

Psychology Versus Law

Psychology Versus Law

Psychology Versus Law

Frye v. United States (1923)

  • Frye tried for Murder

  • Polygraph exam passed

  • General Acceptance Test - Any procedures used to arrive at the testimony must be generally accepted by the scientific community

Admissibility of Expert Testimony: US

  • Daubert criteria

    • Provided by a qualified expert
    • Relevant
    • Reliable/Valid
      • Peer reviewed
      • Testable (i.e. falsifiable)
      • Recognized rate of error
      • Meet professional standards

Admissibility of Expert Testimony: Canada

  • Mohan Criteria

    • Provided by an expert
    • Relevant
    • Necessary
    • Not violate rules of exclusion

Other Canadian Court Cases

  • R v. Sophonow (1986)

  • R v. Lavallee (1990)

  • R v. Swain (1991)

  • R v. Levogiannis (1993)

  • R v. Oickle (2000)

Psychological Theories…

  • Psychoanalytic theories

    • Internal dynamics and early experiences
  • Learning theories

    • Learning through direct and indirect consequences
  • Personality theories

    • The make-up of criminal personalities

...Psychoanalytic Theories

  • John Bowlby

    • Theory of maternal deprivation
    • Early separation from one’s mother prevents effective social development
    • Results in antisocial behaviour patterns

Learning Theories

  • Albert Bandura

    • Social learning theory
    • Criminal behaviour is learned through direct and indirect reinforcement (e.g., by interacting with anti-social peers, watching violence on television)

Personality Theories

  • Hans Eysenck

    • Bio-social theory
    • PEN Model
    • People high on Neuroticism and Extraversion are more likely to become involved in crime

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