Psychology & Law

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
PSYC 3314
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This general survey course provides an introduction to the study of psychology as it relates to the law. It will lead to a better understanding of criminal and civil issues that involve psychological perspectives; including a focus on psychological experts in court, child custody, law enforcement, victimology, violent offenders, risk assessments, and treatment of forensic clinical populations.
Course Content

Psychology and Law Overview

  • Canadian legal system.
  • Mental health law.
  • Roles of forensic psychologists.

Criminal Court

  • Eyewitness identification and memory issues.
  • Studying juries and jury behaviour.
  • Mental state at time of offence (and findings of not criminally responsible).
  • Fitness/competency to stand trial.

Family/Civil Court

  • Child custody.
  • Mediation.
  • Assessing psychological/personal injury.

Law Enforcement

  • Police use of discretion.
  • Psychological selection and evaluation.
  • False confessions.
  • Assessing deception and malingering in investigations.


  • The forensic psychologist as a clinician.
  • Offender rehabilitation.

Special Populations in the Legal System.

  • Mentally disordered offenders.
  • Children and juveniles.
  • Indigenous Peoples.

Violence and Criminal Behaviour

  • Psychological treatment of violent, sexual, and homicidal offenders, and psychopaths.
  • Risk assessments.

Victims of Crime

  • Psychological assessment and treatment.
Learning Activities

Instruction may include:

  • lectures
  • group-discussion
  • video/audio presentations
  • classroom exercises.
Means of Assessment

The course evaluation will be in accordance with Douglas College and Psychology Department policies. Evaluations will be based on the course objectives. The specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor at the beginning of the semester.

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

Two midterm exams (20% each)  -  40%

Final exam  -  20%

APA Paper   -  20%

Group Presentation   -  10%

Two pop quizzes (5% each)  -  10%

Total  -  100%

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course the learner will be able to:

  1. Describe the relationship between psychology and the law.
  2. Describe the structure and functions of the Canadian legal system.
  3. Describe the various roles of forensic psychologists.
  4. Understand the limitations of eyewitness identification from the perspective of psychological research.
  5. Understand the role of the psychologist in trial consultation.
  6. Identify psychological factors in jury behaviour and decision making.
  7. Explain assessment of mental state at time of offence.
  8. Explain what it means to be competent to stand trial and how psychologists assess fitness.
  9. Demonstrate understanding of the role of the psychologist in civil legal disputes (e.g. divorce, psychological injury, child custody).
  10. Discuss the psychological factors in child custody evaluations.
  11. Describe psychological assessment methods for selecting and evaluating law enforcement officers.
  12. Outline the mental health needs of law enforcement personnel and how they may be assessed and supported.
  13. Identify the methods of assessing deception and malingering.
  14. Outline the role of the psychologist providing assessment and mental health services in prisons and jails.
  15. Describe the methods of treatment of mentally disordered offenders and limitations of various treatments.
  16. Identify the needs of special populations in the criminal justice system.
  17. Describe methods and limitations of psychological treatment of violent offenders.
  18. Explain psychological assessments of violence risk.
  19. Identify the psychological needs of and treatments for victims of crime.
Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students

Textbook(s) such as the following, the list to be updated periodically:

  • Roesch, R., Zapf, P.A., & Hart, S.D. (2014). Forensic psychology and the law: A Canadian perspective. Toronto, ON: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd.
  • Pozzulo, J., Bennell, C., & Forth, A. (2017). Forensic psychology (5th ed.). Toronto, ON: Pearson Canada.
  • Porter, S. & Wrightsman, L.S.  (2013). Forensic psychology (2nd Canadian ed.). Toronto, ON: Nelson Canada.




  • One of PSYC 2301 or CRIM 2254 or alternative research methods course (with instructor approval)


Courses listed here must be completed either prior to or simultaneously with this course:

  • No corequisite courses


Courses listed here are equivalent to this course and cannot be taken for further credit:

  • No equivalency courses

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PSYC 3314
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU PSYC 3451 (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG PSYC 2XXX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU PSYC 268 (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU PSYC 3400 (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU PSYC 416 (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV PSYC 2nd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC PSYC 3XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV PSYC 2XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC PSYC 2XX (1.5)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023