University of Southampton, UK
Which is it? Is psychology and law a subdiscipline and, if so, of psychology, of law or both? Is it an example of two disciplines collaborating towards greater understanding of their interrelationship, and if so is it best described as psychology in law, law in psychology or psychology and law? Should it be broadened to 'behavioural sciences' rather than just 'psychology'? Or is it a coming together, a commitment, of psychologists and lawyers to improve the quality and efficiency of our laws and legal systems? Clearly we do not have a consensus on such issues. Does that matter? Do we need to decide? Are we missing anything by not identifying, debating and tackling such issues?
This Handbook contains chapters that exemplify each of the three approaches: subdiscipline, collaboration and 'project'. But it does not follow that the authors would argue that their approach is the only appropriate position or approach. How we 'do', or what we write, in psychology and law does not, necessarily, reflect what we would like to see happening at the macro or organisational level. As individuals and groups we tend to focus on a narrow range of topics, with a view to gaining recognition for our expertise. This chapter will argue that we have not, to our loss, paid sufficient attention to the structural and thematic issues in this developing interest area. Organisational arrangements, particularly internationally (between national and regional bodies) and structurally (between researchers and practitioners but also between psychologists and
* I am most grateful to Ray Bull for his comments on drafts of this chapter, but he must not be assumed to agree with any of it.
Handbook of Psychology in Legal Contexts, Second Edition Edited by D. Carson and R. Bull. © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
lawyers), are poorly developed. Where 'psychology and law' is going, and should go, is still a matter of conjecture. Important opportunities will be lost unless we attend to these topics.
Psychology and the law are both inherently concerned with the analysis, explanation, prediction and, sometimes, the alteration of human behaviour. Of course there is much more to the study and practice both of psychology and of law. But there is this enormous overlap in interests, in clients, in topics, in issues: from identifying (e.g. see chapter by Yarmey in this volume) who has committed a particular crime to understanding why he or she did it and deterring or preventing (see Fritzon and Watts, in this volume) its repetition; from interviewing people (e.g. see chapter by Milne and Bull in this volume), in order to learn more about past events of which they may have recall, through assessing the credibility and reliability of what they say (e.g. see chapter by Vrij in this volume), to making complex decisions based on that information. Some emphasise the overlap to demonstrate how great is the common interest (e.g. Lloyd Bostock, 1988; Schuller and Ogloff, 2001). We could also list successes, for example on identification evidence, assessments of capacity to make legal decisions (e.g. see chapter by Murphy and Clare in this volume) on interviewing witness to collect more useful information about a past event, to demonstrate how much has been achieved. But that would also serve to emphasise how remarkably little use is made of that knowledge base. Legislatures and courts do not rush, or even have systems, to ensure that they take account of the latest research on, for example, identification evidence or false confessions, despite its importance for improving justice and confidence in the legal system.
Are the relations between lawyers and psychologists underdeveloped? We cannot agree an answer to that question without a consensus on what is possible. But its impact has been limited, it is submitted, when we consider what could have been achieved by now. For example, are psychologists or behavioural scientists regularly appointed members of law reform commissions, or similar? Do all lawyers have some education in the scientific analysis, prediction or shaping of human behaviour? So why has psychology and law so relatively little to show? Why, when the potential for valuable and practical collaboration is so great, is the ambition so restrained? This chapter will encourage debate about such questions. It will suggest that a more adventurous and challenging programme for relating the disciplines and professions could, and should, be adopted. It will argue that psychology and law should be a 'project', as well as a 'collaboration' and subdiscipline. It will differ from other overviews of the developing relationship between the disciplines (e.g. Kapardis, 1997; Haney, 1980; Schuller and Ogloff, 2001). The basis for interdisciplinary cooperation and intraprofessional collaboration is recognition of a need for, and a commitment towards achieving, greater (quality, quantity, efficiency and effectiveness) justice. To the extent that this necessarily involves value choices, it is political. Thus it is inimical to those who perceive 'science' as pure and objective. But this is inevitable and a feature of the subject-matter. As such it should be acknowledged openly.
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