Understanding Forensic Psychology Research

Assignment 1: LASA 2

Forensic Psychology Booklet

Definition of Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology is the study of criminal psychology for investigative purposes and it deals with the laws for criminal action. The levels of education required prior to studying forensic psychology vary and this requires different types of skills to be able to deal with the subject and understand it completely. The level of education prior to studying Forensic Psychology is a graduate degree preferably in law which will make it easier and more challenging to study Forensic Psychology. (Clay, 2009)

Master and Doctorate Level Degrees in Forensic Psychology

With a masters or a Doctorate level degree there are many openings for job opportunities more so with the global rate of crime increasing annually. The opportunities are in Universities, colleges as educators, active opportunities are with the policing departments and the government agencies which deal with different types of crimes, opportunities are available in the law courts and the legal system of a country or on an international level and working for mental health facilities and prison systems.

Master’s Degree Level in Forensic Psychology

With a Master’s Degree, a person can work in the private security companies that hold global contracts, it is possible to find openings in the law enforcement agencies and the police departments. In addition a person can work in the legal system as a profiler, and also in the departments of victim- advocacy. There is also further scope that is challenging in the area of juvenile offenders and psychopathic criminals. There is plenty of scope and opportunities in the crisis line of criminal investigations and networked agency cases across the globe. These are areas that provide several opportunities and helps in providing a high degree of job satisfaction in understanding the psychology behind the criminal acts committed by offenders. Generally this is a 4 year degree course with an individual majoring in Forensic Psychology. (PIO, 2015)

Doctorate Degree Level in Forensic Psychology

To attain this level of Forensic psychology an individual needs to complete graduate level studies and masters level studies majoring in Forensic psychology. The master’s degree takes about 3 years and to attain a doctorate it would take another two to three years depending upon the pace of the research study. When a doctorate degree is obtained, the same jobs are available as in the Master’s Degree level but the compensation is high and the level of the job is more advanced. At this level the new methods and techniques of forensic capability are developed, the law is studied and the individual stay abreast of the changes in legislation. An individual an also opt to become a professor and teach students Forensic Psychology and participate in sponsored research studies that will benefit society. A doctorate level professional in Forensic can also work with a law firm or the Prosecutor’s office in creating the structure of the crime that was committed to make it simpler to apprehend the perpetrator. There is scope to work in the legal system and also to make suggestions to the law enforcement authorities or the legal system of changes that would improve the evidence collected though Forensic Psychology. (Florian, 2012)

Types of Research Possibilities for Forensic Psychologists

The types of research possibilities that are available for Forensic psychologists are:

Researching the background of a victim or an offender to provide evidence though expertise in a court of law.

The second area of expertise is to find out ways and techniques that could be used as a preventive tactic to minimize crime rates by working with the potential criminals and the hardened criminals.

The third area is that an offender needs to be caught, and therefore an analysis needs to be done of the mind of the criminal based on the trail left behind by the offender or in the absence of any trail left behind by the offender.

The fourth area of research that is open is the evaluation of the crimes committed, the tactics used by the offender or the effect on the victim. Based on the evidence and the structure of the crime it is possible for a Forensic psychologist to provide a portrait of the offender which could narrow down the possibilities of who is actually the offender for speedy arrest.

The fifth area is profiling a serious offender or a serial offender who needs to be apprehended before he commits another typical crime in a typical pattern. (Kambachs, Lyons, 2006)

The research opportunities in Forensic Psychology are challenging as a criminal psychologist needs to enter into the mind of an offender to understand the mental condition and mental forces in the mind of an offender and try to understand what the next step of the offender will be.

The current research topics that are underway in Forensic Psychology is to understand how to de-control the minds of entire populations that are controlled to commit different types of crimes. This is a very challenging area and it exercises the intelligence of a Forensic Psychologist to the maximum possible degree.

Research is also underway to understand the prison psychology among the offenders that have been sentenced and also to test through observation whether the offender is genuinely guilty or is actually innocent but has been sentenced as a scape goat or on the basis of circumstantial evidence and a bad defence lawyer. (Clay, 2009)

The higher levels of research opportunities are to be able to provide an opinion about a juvenile offender, a profile of an offender and or what could be the next move of an offender who has not yet been caught. This is an intellectually challenging job opportunity and the responsibility of being correct is on the Forensic Psychologist and not on the evidence that has not been provided to frame an opinion.

Case Law

The first thing that the legal system of most developed countries need to ascertain is that tan offender is competent to stand trial, in this case an evaluation by a forensic psychologist can determine whether the offender was provoked in normal frame of mind or was provoked over a long period of time which led to the crime. Secondly, even if the offender has been competent to stand trial there could have been a short period of psychological pressure because of which the crime was committed here a forensic psychologist is required to certify the mental health and the physical health conditions of an offender to see whether he arrested offender is the genuine offenders or has been framed or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In order to make an evaluation and submit a report to the courts before sentencing the Forensic psychologist has to be able to know the laws can the changes in the law so that the right suggestions can be made in the report of the offender or the victim’s condition. The other situation where the expertise of a forensic psychologist is necessary is the structure a crime in the courtroom the way it happened and even if the offender is normal a temporary phase may have led to the offense, the courts are heavily reliant on such reports to either sentence an offender or the enter into plea bargain. (Forensic Psychology, 2015)

Specific Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Why They are Important

The Specific Amendments the U.S. Constitution has been modified to protect the civil rights of the Americans and their Constitutional Rights.

Every individual in American society has rights as a citizen and rights as an individual, the Forensic Psychologist needs to be aware of the amendments to the Constitution so that no advice or report goes against the rights of an offender who is eligible for a defence in a court of law when arrested for a criminal, offense. This complicated situation of rights of offenders and juvenile delinquents makes it difficult to sentence the offenders whether they are adults or children, and in order to circumvent the law or to be able to find a gap in the law to place an accurate observation of the offender a Forensic Psychologist needs to know the Specific Amendments in the Constitution laid down for offenders, prison inmates and juvenile delinquents. (Heiburn, Brooks, 2010)

Important Past Research in the Field

“Andrea Yates was accused in 2002 of drowning her five children in a bathtub. Initially found guilty, the Yates case was overturned as a result of psychiatrist Park Dietz’s materially false testimony during the trial. After the appeal, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity, allowing her to serve her sentence in a low-security mental health institution instead of prison. (FP, 2015)

Jared Loughner was accused of attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords of Arizona along with 49 other counts.  The latest ruling found Loughner unable to comprehend the proceedings against him, giving doctors four months to rehabilitate Loughner’s mental state. Christina Pietz, Loughner’s primary psychologist, recently reported that Loughner had gone through extensive changes since being accepted to the mental ward. Until he is found medically capable of understanding the charges against him, however, Loughner’s fate remains in the hands of expert psychologists such as Pietz.(FP-2015)

‘In 1896, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing testified at a murder trial on the effects of suggestibility on witness- testimony’ (Bartol, 2005)

In the landmark 1954 case: “Brown vs. Board of Education”, several psychologists testified for the plaintiffs and the defendants. The courts gave support to psychologists serving as mental illness experts in the case of Jenkins vs. United States (1962).

 The above research in this shows that as early as 1916 Forensic Psychologists have played a critical role in the successful closure of a case or have been able to hold their ground in the face of legislation to protect an offender from standing trial by proving that the offender was unable to understand the charges framed against him.

Diversity Issues

There is a diversity issue that exists in Forensic Agency and that is the gaps between those who are being assessed and those who are the assessors. It is require that this gap be narrowed down considering that the racial and the ethnic composition of the country is changing, research shows that the Latina- Latino citizens will be in the majority by 2040. It is now necessary for the forensic psychologists to be highly competent, and have an increased understanding of the diversity that exists in the country (Heilen, Brooks, 2010).

Ethical Considerations

Forensic psychologists need to be sensitive to the possibility of malingering among examinees. This is one of the major differences between clinical psychology and forensic psychology. There are a few ethical concerns and pitfalls but none that cannot be overcome by a Forensic Psychologist. All Forensic Psychologists are guided by the ‘Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct,’ published by the American Psychological Association. This was again revised in 2002. The guidelines for forensic psychologists are set out in the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists which was published in 1991. Forensic Psychologists can use these two documents to clarify ethical questions. The possibility of ethical dilemmas can be a concern for forensic psychologists. The very nature of the practice within the legal arena can sometimes lead to ethical conflicts.

Eyewitness Testimony in Forensic Psychology

The eye witness testimony is depending on the memory of an offender, a victim or an eye witness. In most cases there is never any uniformity in the accounts of any type of interrogation answers. This is because there are three stages that the memory goes through in an event. The first is the encoding, the second is the storage of that memory and the third is retrieving that memory when questioned by a Forensic psychologist. There are two types of memory that Forensic psychologist bring out to get answers and information. These are the recall memory where a witness reports the details of a previous event that has been witnesses and the second is the recognition memory where an event that is being shown is recognized accurately or inaccurately by the eye witness. Some of the other tactics used in eye witness testimony to draw out information is explicit manipulation and implicit manipulation.

The results of the Yule Study of the accuracy of the eye witnesses was found to be:

Police InterviewForensic Psychologist Interview

Action Details82%82%

Person descirption76%73%

Object Description89%85%

 Libscomb, Thomas, McAllister, Hunter, & Bregman, Norman. (2001). Bias in Eyewitness Accounts: The Effects of Question Format, Delay Interval, and Stimulus Presentation. The Journal of Psychology, 207-212.

Transfer of Juveniles to Criminal Court

The current status of the Forensic Psychologists is to assist the Judges to formulate a decision. Forensic evaluations are conducted and the results and findings are provided to the attorneys and the Judges. The areas that are evaluated are emotional, cognitive and behavioural. Based on the evaluation the court decides whether the delinquent should be transferred to an adult court under adult rules if the likelihood of committing the same crime exists and is a threat to the community. The two main areas that are evaluated by a Forensic psychologist are:

Competence to Confess as per the rights in the Sixth Amendment

Competence to Proceed with the legal process in an adult court proceeding. (Downey et al 2015)

Bishop, D. Frazier, C (1999) a Study of Juvenile Transfers to Criminal Court in Florida, Issue113: Office of the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention

False Confessions

There are many cases where an alleged suspect has been tortured to confess to a crime falsely, coerced to confess or has done so believing that the person had actually committed a crime. The Forensic psychologist comes into play here by interviewing the offender using all the evaluation techniques and the observation of the offender to arrive at a decision of whether the individual interviewed has actually committed a crime or has not committed a crime. This is a big responsibility for a Forensic Psychologist. The False Confession of Damon Thibodeux,-1996


The progress of Forensic Psychology is as good as the progress in Biology or Chemistry. In the last 30 years Forensic Psychology has made rapid progress. Today there are texts and Journal available, research studies have been undertaken and the methods of understanding the human behavior of an offender or a victim under duress, coercion or self-belief has increased and improved that erroneous decision can be avoided even if a false confession is made by an offender who is then sentenced to a prison term.


Bishop, Frazier. (1999) A Study of Juvenile Transfers to Criminal Court in Florida, Issue: 113, Office of the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention

Clay, R.A. (2009) Post Grad. Growth Area: Forensic Psychology, American Psychological Association

Downey, M., Farhat, F., Garofolo, A. & Jones, R. (2015) Status of Juvenile Court & Forensic Psychology, www.historyforensicpsych.umwblogs.org p.1

Florien, A. (2012) Forensic Psychology Booklet,www.issuu.com/sarasotagiri/docs

Forensic Psychology (2015) How Forensic Psychology in Framing the Legal System, www.forenpsychology.net

Heilen, K. Brooks. S. (2010) Forensic Psychology & Forensic Science: A Proposed Agenda for the Next Decade, Psychology, Public Policy & Law, Issue 16, p.219-253

Kambach, K.C. Lyons, P.M. (20060 Ethical Issues in Conducting Forensic Evaluation, Sam Houston State University, www.apa.org

PIO (2015) Psychology Information Drain, Forensic Psychology – Criminal Court, Psychology Information

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