Research Methods in Forensic Psychology

Research Methods in Forensic Psychology

Research Methods in Forensic Psychology

Research Methods in Forensic Psychology


The only professional resource to focus exclusively on research methods in forensic psychology

With specific advice on topics of particular importance to forensic specialists, Research Methods in Forensic Psychology presents state-of-the-discipline summaries of the issues that relate to psychology and law research.

Edited by renowned experts in the field, this resource features contributions by leading scholars in forensic psychology and law, with discussion of relevant topics such as:

  • Meta-analysis
  • Jury decision making
  • Internet-based data collection
  • Legal research techniques for the social scientist
  • Offender treatment
  • Competence to stand trial
  • Criminal profiling
  • False confessions and interrogations
  • Trial-related psycho-legal issues
  • Accuracy of eyewitnesses and children
  • Violence risk assessment
This comprehensive guide is designed for a wide range of scholars and legal professionals, presenting a succinct overview of the field of psychology and law as viewed by some of the world's foremost experts.



FOR MORE THAN a century, since the publication of Hugo Munsterberg’s seminal book On the Witness Stand, psychologists have been actively engaged in research aimed at addressing and informing legal questions. Although Munsterberg’s work was largely ignored in his lifetime, important developments in legally relevant aspects of psychology have continued to emerge in the decades that followed. In 1917, William Marston published the first of many papers (as part of his dissertation research) examining the utility of autonomic nervous system arousal as a measure of deception. This work eventually culminated in the modern-day polygraph test, but also formed the basis for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Frye v. U.S. (1923), which defined the “general acceptance” standard for admissibility of scientific testimony—a standard that still plays a part in admissibility decisions in almost all jurisdictions. But without question, the “breakthrough” application of psychological research to legal proceedings occurred in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), in which the research of Kenneth and Mamie Clark was cited in support of the argument that racially segregated educational systems were inherently unequal.

However, much of this seminal research, like Munsterberg’s early writings, has been ignored by the legal community. For example, Marston’s precursor to the polygraph test was deemed inadmissible in Frye because it was not “generally accepted” by scholars in the field. Many such examples exist, including Supreme Court decisions in Barefoot v. Estelle (1983) and Lockhart v. McCree (1986), both of which effectively ignored decades of published research (regarding the accuracy of predictions of violence and the impact of death qualification on jury verdicts, respectively). In some cases, judicial fact-finders and policymakers have cited limitations in the published research, noting that the published research does not directly answer the specific legal issue at hand; in other instances, however, concerns relate to the study methodology used. Indeed, the rigor of psycholegal research . . .

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