HC441H - Psychological Science and Law

Professor: Robert Mauro

4.00 credits

  • CRN 16438: Monday & Wednesday, 2:00-3:50pm @ CHA 301

In this class, we will explore a variety of issues that lie at the intersection of psychology and law. For each issue, we will discuss what has been done, what is being done, what can be done, and what should be done.In this course, we will discuss issues of identity (e.g., eyewitness identification, interrogation, lie detection, and profiling), state of mind (competency, insanity, and other legal defenses based on the defendant’s state of mind), social policy (e.g., capital punishment, discrimination, voting rights), and the use of psychological and social science methods in legal contexts.  Some of the issues that we may discuss are: wrongful convictions based on misidentification by witnesses, failures of forensic science, problems with policing police and prosecutors, profiling, and the death penalty. In each of these areas, we will focus on understanding the practical problems that have been addressed by the law and how social science knowledge and methodology can be used to illuminate these issues. Although, we will focus on how these issues are handled in the United States, we will take an international perspective and explore how other legal systems are structured and how they have confronted some of these issues.

In this class, students will learn simple methods for researching and analyzing issues from legal and scientific bases and they will practice combining these analyses to arrive at policy decisions. Students will learn ways to separate policy questions into empirical issues and questions of values. We will also introduce some simple tools for understanding simple empirical analyses. By the end of the course, you should have a broad familiarity with a variety of legal issues and the ways in which psychological and social science research and methodology have been applied to address these issues.  You should understand the differences in the ways that jurists and scientists approach issues and you should be able to perform simple legal and scientific analyses of social problems.