Psychology and the U.S. Legal System

Discussion – Week 1


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Psychology and the U.S. Legal System

The term forensic is applicable to many areas today. A number of years ago the general public typically thought that forensic meant working with the deceased. This common mistake had its genesis in a popular T.V. show about a forensic pathologist. However, the term “forensic” refers to anything pertaining to the law, both civil and criminal. Thus, forensic psychology refers to how psychology is practiced within the legal system.
Forensic psychology differs from traditional psychology in that it is practiced in a legal system not historically known for understanding, compassion, and rehabilitation. In essence, forensic psychology professionals take their skills and “play in someone else’s ballpark.” The definitions and terms that a forensic psychology professional uses now are applied to a legal setting. In this Discussion you become more familiar with the field of forensic psychology by exploring how psychological knowledge and principles are applied to and impact the legal system.

To prepare for this Discussion:

  • Review Chapter 1 of the course text, Introduction to Forensic Psychology. Pay close attention to how psychological theory, practice, and research have influenced and do influence the legal system.
  • Review this week’s DVD program, “Foundations of Forensic Psychology. ” Think about how all areas of psychology contribute to the legal system.

With these thoughts in mind:

Post by Day 4 an analysis of how psychology in general has contributed to the legal system. Provide at least two specific examples and explain their impact.

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.

Application: History of Forensic Psychology

How did forensic psychology evolve into a psychology specialty? Most agree that forensic psychology’s history dates back to 1893 when the first psychology experiment was conducted on the psychological aspects of a witness’s testimony. However, other important events have contributed to the development of the field. The formal recognition of contemporary forensic psychology in the United States is usually dated to 2001 with the American Psychological Association’s recognition of forensic psychology as a specialty. It is an exciting field of study and practice that is evolving from year to year.

To prepare for this assignment:

  • Review Chapter 1 in the course text, Introduction to Forensic Psychology, paying attention to the influence of psychology on the legal system throughout the historical benchmarks.
  • Consider how the intermingling of psychology and law has evolved over the years.
  • Consider how the history of forensic psychology has laid a foundation for the discipline today.
  • Think about the evolution of the field of forensic psychology (where it started, the current state, and where it might be heading).

The assignment (1–2 pages):

  • Describe two events or aspects of forensic psychology history.
  • Explain how each has contributed to the evolving field of forensic psychology. Be specific and provide examples.

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