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Forensic Psychology

Any application of Psychological Research methods, theory, and practice to a task faced by the legal system


Role of a forensic psychologist when testifying in a trial

to use the results of their assessment to help or to educate the court, without regard to the potential benefit to the examinee


Fact Witness

facts about the case, victim, witnessed case, knowledge about similar cases, interviewed victim


Expert Witness

forensic psychologist, interviewing and testing people


Voir Dire

“to speak the truth” – the process is mandated by both federal and state statutes – used to uncover biases


Civil Punishment

o Punishment for the responsible party is having to pay monetary award to the injured party


Criminal Punishment

Those found guilty will be deprived of freedom


What is a mediator and who can serve the role

•Helps to resolve legal disputes to prevent a trial (personal injury cases, town zoning matters, claims of age discrimination, child custody)
•Psychologists and Attorneys can be mediators


Various roles a forensic psychologist can have

• Consultant to law enforcement and other high risk occupations
• Evaluator and expert witness
• Educator and researcher
• mediator in settling legal disputes
• Trial consultant/assist with jury selection
• Consultant to judges
• Advisor to legislators on public policy


Who founded forensic psychology

Hugo Munsterberg


What are the various subfields of psychology in whciha forensic psychologist can be trained

o Clinical psychologists
o Social psychologists
o Experimental psychologists
o Developmental psychologists


Brown V. Board of Education

o Stated that school segregation was illegal
o The appendix to the case was prepared by 3 psychologists and was based on social science research


Diplomate status

indicates that the recipient is at the highest level of excellence in his or her field


Primary purpose to have a forensic psychologist testify in court

Evaluation of the suspect for witness testimony


How does psychology interact from those in the field of law when carrying out their profession

• Law is concerned with morality , social values, and social control

o Our laws reflect our values
o Values change (marital rape) leading to new laws
o The law justifies the application of abstract
principles to specific cases
o What can be proved in court

• Psychology deals with knowledge and truth, which are thought to be value-free
o We often look for reproducible phenomena and causes
o Psychology derives abstract principles from specific instances
o We espouse the empirical approach
We make changes based on scientific merit


Amicus brief

a letter sent to the court by a third party that is unrelated to the current lawsuit but have something to gain or lose based on the outcome of the trial


Difference between civil and criminal cases

Judicial system operates on the principle that those who have committed a wrong should be punished
• Civil:
o Punishment for the responsible party is having to pay monetary award to the injured party
o Could result in loss of custody
o Could result in guardianship
Ex: if you can’t take care of yourself or are a danger to yourself, someone may be assigned to be your caregiver
• Criminal
o Those found guilty will be deprived of freedom


What is the controversy over how forensic psychology is designated as a separate field within psychology

o Is erroneously considered by many as a subspecialty of clinical
•Is its own subfield equal to clinical, behavioral, social etc.


Why might an examinee in a forensic assessment give a distorted picture of his/her functioning

*Custody – attempt to look virtuous
*Personal injury – distort responses to appear more damaged than is the case
*Criminal – may appear more emotionally disturbed to avoid a trial, culpability, or a death sentence


What does the empirical approach mean in Psychology

We make changes based on scientific merit


Ecological Validity

Dissimilarities between research and the real world



Consistency over time



Does it measure what it is supposed to measure


Purpose of the first forensic evaluations for those in high risk occupations

• May not identify all applicants who have or will develop psychological problems but may determine those at higher risk


When are preemployment screens and fitness for duty assessments conducted

**Preemployment screens are conducted before an individual gets hired

**FFD's are typically occurs after an employee has engaged in some behavior or communication that has raised concern about his or her psychological suitability to perform job duties, or about risk of harm to self or others in the workplace


Who is the client for a forensic psychologist

The employing agency NOT the applicant


What assessment methods are best to use for high risk occupations

• PAI - Personality Assessment Inventory
o Correlates higher with anger control problems, illicit drug use, and psychological suitability ratings

• IPI - Inwald Personality Inventory
o Has predictive validity for termination, lateness, absence, disciplinary action, injuries, leadership potential, supervisor’s ratings, and overall performance


Potential outcomes of suitability analysis for high-risk occupations

o Suitable
No significant pathology and no or few areas of concern were noted

o Marginally suitable
No significant pathology; one or more concerns were noted but doesn’t justify exclusion

o Unsuitable
Significant pathology/behavioral problems; multiple areas of concern noted


Why might a person in a high risk occupation not be suitable for continuing employment after a work related incident

o Risk of harm to self or others in the workplace
o When problems (psychological, psychiatric, or substance use [or symptoms of these]) interfere with ability to perform essential functions of the job


Why might a memory for an event change over time

• The process of recollection is reconstructive

o Sources of information used to reconstruct memory are not only from the event but from postevent information

*In some cases mere imagination can make people believe they witnessed or experienced an event that did not happen