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Psychology & Law

Course Code: PSYC 3314
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Psychology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

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

  • 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

  • Fitness for duty.
  • 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 & juveniles.
  • Aboriginals.

Violence and Criminal Behaviour

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

Victims of Crime

  • Psychological assessment and treatment.

Methods of Instruction

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

course prerequisites

PSYC 1100 and PSYC 1200

curriculum 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 schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.

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