In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Psychology and Law

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Book Series
  • Journals

Psychology Psychology and Law
Kirk Heilbrun, Edie Greene
  • LAST REVIEWED: 02 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 October 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0100


The field of psychology and law involves the application of scientific, clinical, and policy aspects of psychology to issues that arise in the legal system. Diverse perspectives are encompassed within psychology and law, including most of the major subdivisions in psychology (e.g., cognitive, developmental, industrial/organizational, and clinical). So, for example, cognitive psychologists may examine the reliability of eyewitness memory; developmental psychologists may assess the impact of maltreatment and abuse on social and cognitive development; industrial/organizational psychologists may investigate how workplace conditions contribute to the incidence of sexual harassment; and clinical forensic psychologists may provide assessment and treatment services to courts and attorneys, law enforcement agencies, or offenders in correctional settings or under court supervision. In each of these instances, psychologists use research and/or treatment protocols relevant to their specialization to address specific questions that emerge in the law. This article is organized around the intersection of those traditional subdivisions of psychology and the law. The field of psychology and law values contributions from professionals in a variety of different settings including university and research organizations, clinical practice, law enforcement agencies, correctional institutions, and other governmental and nonprofit agencies. It also values the contributions of professionals from across the globe, and associations devoted to psychology and law now exist in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Several specialized journals and book series are devoted exclusively to psycholegal matters. Undergraduate courses in psychology and law are increasingly common on college and university campuses. Various training programs prepare graduate and postgraduate students to address mental health issues in a variety of legal settings and to become the next generation of researchers, scholars, and practitioners. The American Board of Forensic Psychology and comparable organizations in other countries credential psychologists who specialize in clinical forensic issues, and an updated set of ethical guidelines has been developed specifically for their use. Psychologists have been involved in appellate court decisions by testifying in hearings and by making their research findings and policy analyses available to judges through amicus briefs submitted to the US Supreme Court and to lower courts.

General Overviews

Psychology and law is a diverse field, drawing on contributions from clinical practitioners, academic researchers in various subfields of psychology and criminal justice, policy analysts, and educators. As such, there have been relatively few attempts—other than the works noted under Textbooks—to bring these varied interests and perspectives together into a comprehensive resource. Cutler 2008 is one exception. A two-volume encyclopedia with four hundred entries, it serves as an invaluable compendium and reference work and would be useful to students, academics, practitioners, lawyers, judges, and the interested general public. More recently, the series Advances in Psychology and Law has brought together a diverse array of scholars to explore new research developments and policy implications, with Miller and Bornstein 2016 being the first volume in the series. Another recent volume, Brewer and Douglass 2019, provides chapters on a wide variety of topics in psychology and law. The modern history of the field is told through the experiences of a small group of clinicians, legal scholars, and psychological scientists whose narratives are compiled in Grisso and Brodsky 2018.

  • Brewer, N., and A. Douglass, eds. 2019. Psychological science and the law. New York: Guilford.

    This volume focuses on the application of psychological science research findings and theories to the criminal justice system. In addition to topics such as eyewitness memory, plea bargaining, and jury decision making addressed in this article, it includes chapters by Charman on cognitive bias in legal decision making, Hope and Gabbert on interviewing witnesses and victims, Zaragoza on false memory, Madon on expert testimony, and Steblay on translating psychological science into policy and practice.

  • Cutler, B. L., ed. 2008. Encyclopedia of psychology and law. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Encyclopedia entries range from one thousand to three thousand words and are arranged in alphabetical order. Entries are also listed within useful headings such as “Criminal Competencies,” “Education and Professional Development,” “Psychological and Forensic Assessment Instruments,” and “Trial Process.” Each entry lists suggestions for further reading, and both volumes have comprehensive indexes.

  • Grisso, T., and S. L. Brodsky, eds. 2018. The roots of modern psychology and law: A narrative history. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This book provides firsthand accounts by scholars and clinicians of their early contributions to the field of psychology and law in the decade following the founding of the American Psychology-Law Society in 1969. The authors are considered by many to be among the founders of the field who charted the course for research and clinical practice for subsequent decades.

  • Miller, M., and B. H. Bornstein. 2016. Advances in psychology and law. Vol. 1. New York: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-29406-3

    The inaugural volume in the series includes chapters on sex offender policy and prevention, children’s participation in legal proceedings, an evaluation of show ups, the psychology of jury instructions, and structured risk assessment and legal decision making. Subsequent volumes (e.g., Volume 3 [2018]) cover topics such as pretrial publicity effects on jurors and juries, restorative justice, bias in forensic mental health judgements, and research on understanding and appreciation of Miranda warnings.

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