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Psychology and the Law

  1. Ronald Roesch1,
  2. Patricia A. Zapf2

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0733

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Roesch, R. and Zapf, P. A. 2010. Psychology and the Law. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Simon Fraser University

  2. 2

    John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The field of psychology and law first began to develop within the last century and is currently experiencing a period of growth and expansion. The interaction between the disciplines of psychology and law has greatly increased over the past few decades in three overlapping areas: forensic psychology, legal psychology, and psychological jurisprudence. In forensic psychology, psychologists act as experts, practitioners, researchers, and/or consultants with respect to legally relevant clinical areas (such as competency to stand trial, insanity, or civil commitment to psychiatric hospitals). Legal psychology uses applied and empirical research methods to study a range of issues of importance to the legal system (e.g., eyewitness accuracy, police selection, procedural justice, jury decision making, and legal assumptions about human behavior relevant to the rights of defendants, victims, children, and mental patients). Finally, psychological jurisprudence is that area of the field in which the main focus involves efforts to develop a philosophy of law and justice based on psychological values.


  • competency to stand trial;
  • criminal responsibility;
  • expert testimony;
  • forensic psychology;
  • psychology and the courts;
  • right to refuse treatment;
  • right to treatment;
  • testing and legislation