Forensic psychology is a relatively young field of scholarship. Conceptualized broadly, the field encompasses diverse approaches to psychology. Each of the major psychological subdivisions has contributed to research on legal issues: cognitive (e.g., eyewitness testimony), developmental (e.g., children’s testimony), social (e.g., jury behavior), clinical (e.g., assessment of competence), biological (e.g., the polygraph), and industrial-organizational psychology (e.g., sexual harassment in the workplace). Scholars from university settings, research institutions, and various government agencies in several continents have contributed substantially to the growth of empirical knowledge of forensic psychology issues. Though young, the field shows clear signs of maturation. These signs include scientific journals devoted exclusively to forensic psychology research; the publication of forensic psychology research in highly prestigious psychology journals; professional associations devoted to forensic psychology in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia; annual professional conferences; and hundreds of books on forensic psychology topics.
Forensic Psychology Research Topics
- Criminal Behavior Topics
- Criminal Responsibility Topics
- Death Penalty Topics
- Divorce and Child Custody Topics
- Eyewitness Memory Topics
- Forensic Assessment Topics
- Juvenile Offenders Topics
- Mental Health Law Topics
- Police Psychology Topics
- Sentencing and Incarceration Topics
- Trial Consulting Topics
- Victimization Topics
- Violence Risk Assessment Topics
Forensic psychology is also a practice. Clinical psychologists who practice in forensic arenas provide assessment and treatment services in a wide variety of criminal and civil matters and in law enforcement. Social psychologists employ their knowledge of forensic psychology as trial consultants, assisting attorneys with jury selection and trial preparation. Clinical and experimental psychologists serve as expert witnesses in criminal and civil trials. These are but a few examples of practice in psychology and law. Practitioners draw on the tools and knowledge supplied by the traditional domains of psychological inquiry and the specialized domains of forensic psychology.
Psychology and law play a significant role in postgraduate education and professional development. Forensic psychology courses are increasingly common in undergraduate psychology programs, and many such offerings are filled to capacity with undergraduate students weaned on justice- and crime-themed media and literature. Attracted by the compelling application of psychology to real-world criminal investigations and trials, undergraduate students frequently volunteer as research assistants in forensic psychology laboratories. Master’s and doctoral programs focusing on various aspects of forensic psychology have been developed and provide the research and service industries with additional intellectual capital. Postdoctoral training and professional certification options in forensic psychology support the development of a profession that is uniquely qualified to address mental health issues in a wide variety of legal contexts.
The development of forensic psychology as a field of scholarship, practice, and education has numerous societal benefits and is consistent with the trend toward interdisciplinary inquiry. Although welcome in these respects, the marriage between these two broad disciplines poses several boundary challenges. Forensic psychology is interdisciplinary in that it encompasses the fields of psychology and law. It is also intersubdisciplinary in that it encompasses all the traditional subdisciplines of psychology. Given the lack of “ownership” of this field by any one discipline or subdiscipline, the lack of comprehensive references sources (e.g., textbooks, handbooks, encyclopedias) is particularly acute. This collection of forensic psychology research topics represents an attempt to help fill this substantial gap in online resources. It is our hope that this resource will be of immense help for scholars, practitioners, and students of psychology and law.