Psychology and Law: Syllabus

This course focuses on applications of psychology to the administration of justice. Drawing from the areas of social, cognitive, developmental, clinical, and neuropsychology, we will look critically at the trial process both center stage and behind the scenes. The law's informal theories of human behavior will be compared to what psychologists know on the basis of theories and research. A number of controversies will be discussed, including the practice of scientific jury selection, jury deliberation and decision-making, police interrogations and confessions, use of the polygraph as a lie-detector test, eyewitness testimony, repressed and recovered memories, the use of hypnosis, child witnesses in sex abuse cases, the death penalty, the insanity defense, and the role of psychologists as trial consultants and expert witnesses.


Readings will consist of selected court cases, Supreme Court opinions, research articles, law review articles, web sites, and book chapters taken from both psychological and legal literatures.

In addition to readings, students are expected to participate in various activities inside and outside of class (e.g., taking part in a mock jury, polygraph test, police interrogation, face composite sketch, & other demonstrations). Final grades will be based on two exams, an empirical project, and active participation in class discussions.

Students wanting additional information on the topics of this course and related areas should also visit the following web sites: & For details of recent and ongoing trials, see Students interested in graduate school and career opportunities should also visit the web site of the American Psychology-Law Society at

Course Syllabus

Introduction to Evidence

Wrightsman, L., et al. (2002). Psychology and the Legal System (5e), Chapter 1.

Federal Rules of Evidence (as amended through December 1, 2000).

Jury Selection

Hans, V., & Vidmar, N. (1982). Jury selection. In N. Kerr & R. Bray (Eds.), The psychology of the courtroom. NY: Academic Press.

Schulman, J., et al. (1973). Recipe for a jury. Psychology Today, May, 37-44.

Batson v. Kentucky (1986), 54 U.S.L.W. 4425.

Qualifying Juries for the Death Penalty

Governor George Ryan (January 11, 2003). Speech at Northwestern University College of Law.

Lockhart v. McCree (1986), 476 U.S. 162.

Bersoff, D., & Ogden, D. (1987). In the Supreme Court of the United States: Lockhart v. McCree. American Psychologist, 42, 59 68.

Radelet, M., & Borg, M. (2000). The changing nature of death penalty debates. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 43-61.

Jury Decision-Making

Stasser, G., et al. (1982). The social psychology of jury deliberations. In N. Kerr & R. Bray (Eds.), The psychology of the courtroom (pp. 221-256). NY: Academic Press.

Horowitz, J., & Willging, T. (1991). Changing views of jury power: The nullification debate, 1787 1988. Law and Human Behavior, 15, 165 182.

Penrod, S. & Heuer, L. (1997). Tweaking commonsense: Assessing aids to jury decision making. Psychology, Public Policy & Law, 3, 259-284.

Police Interrogations and Confessions

Miranda v. Arizona, 284 U.S. 436 (1966).

Leo, R. (1996). Inside the interrogation room. Journal of Law and Criminology, 86, 266-303.

Kassin, S. (1997). The psychology of confession evidence. American Psychologist, 52, 221-233.

Ofshe, R. (1992). Inadvertent hypnosis in police interrogation: False confession due to dissociative state, misidentified MPD and the satanic cult hypothesis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 40, 125-156.

Kassin, S. (November 1, 2002). False confessions and the jogger case. New York Times, p. A31.

New York v. Wise et al. (December 5, 2002), Affirmation in Response to Motion to Vacate Judgment of Conviction, Indictment No. 4762/89.

Massachusetts v. DiGiambattista (2004). Slip Opinion SJC-09155, August 16, 2004.


Ekman, P. & O'Sullivan, M. (1991). Who can catch a liar? American Psychologist, 46, 913-920.

Raskin, D., & Honts, C. (2002). The comparison question test. In M. Kleiner (Ed.), Handbook of polygraph testing. London: Academic.

Faigman, D.L., et al. (2002). Polygraph tests. In Science in the law: Forensic issues (pp. 555-663). St. Paul: West.

American Polygraph Association,

Eyewitness Identifications

Doyle, J. (2005). True Witness: Cops, Courts, Science, and the Struggle Against Misidentification. NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

PBS Frontline (2000). What Jennifer Saw.

Buckhout, R. (1974). Eyewitness testimony. Scientific American, 231, 23 31.

Wells, G. (1993). What do we know about eyewitness identification? testimony. American Psychologist, 48, 553-571.

U.S. Department of Justice (1999). Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement.

Wells, G., et al. (2000). From the lab to police station: A successful application of eyewitness research. American Psychologist, 55, 581-598.

Repressed & Recovered "Memories"

Loftus, E. (1993). The reality of repressed memories. American Psychologist, 48, 518-537.

Loftus, E. (2004). Memories of things unseen. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 145-147.

Alpert, J., Brown, L., & Courtois, C. (1998). Symptomatic clients and memories of childhood abuse: What the trauma and child sexual abuse literature tells us. Psychology, Public Policy, & Law, 4, 941-995.

Corwin,D., & Olafson, E. (1997). Videotaped discovery of a reportedly unrecallable memory of child sexual abuse: Comparison with a childhood interview videotaped 11 years before. Child Maltreatment, 2, 91-112.

Loftus, E., & Guyer, M. (2002). Who abused Jane Doe? The hazards of the single case history. Skeptical Inquirer, May/ June 2002.

Children as Witnesses in Sex Abuse Cases

Rosenthal, R. (1995). State of New Jersey v. Margaret Kelly Michaels: An overview. Psychology, Public Policy, & Law, 2, 246-271.

Bruck, M., & Ceci, S. (1995). Amicus brief for the case of New Jersey v. Michaels presented by committee of concerned social scientists. Psychology, Public Policy, & Law, 1, 272-322.

Ceci, S., & Bruck, M. (2000). Why judges must insist on electronically preserved recordings of child interviews. Court Review, 8-10.

Forensic Hypnosis

Reiser, M. (1974). Hypnosis as an aid in a homicide investigation. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 17, 84 87.

Sheehan, P., et al. (1991). Pseudomemory effects and their relation to susceptibility to hypnosis and state instruction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 130-137.

Rock v. Arkansas (1987). 483 U.S. 44.

Newman, A., & Thompson, J. (2001). The rise and fall of forensic hypnosis in criminal investigation. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry & the Law, 29, 75-84.

The Criminal Mind as Evil…or "Insane"

PBS Frontline (1984). The Mind of a Murderer, Part II. The Case of the Hillside Strangler.

Low, P., et al. (2000). The Trial of John Hinckley: A case study in the insanity defense (2e). Mineola, NY: Foundation Press.

APA Online (1996). The insanity defense. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Ogloff, J. P. (1991). A comparison of insanity defense standards on juror decision making. Law and Human Behavior, 15, 509-532.

Psychologists as Experts, Consultants, Friends, & Whores of the Court

Monahan, J., & Walker, L. (1988). Social science research in law: A new paradigm. American Psychologist, 43, 465 472.

Faigman, D.L. (1995). The evidentiary status of social science under Daubert: Is it "scientific," "technical," or "other" knowledge? Psychology, Public Policy, & Law, 1, 960-979.

Hagen, M. (1997). Whores of the court: The fraud of psychiatric testimony and the rape of American justice. New York: HarperCollins. (pp. 1-14, 100-133).

Roesch, R., Golding, S. L., Hans, V. P., & Reppucci, N. D. (1991). Social science and the courts: The role of amicus curiae briefs. Law and Human Behavior, 15, 1-11.

Slobogin, C. (1999). The admissibility of behavioral science information in criminal trials: From primitivism to Daubert to Voice. Psychology, Public Policy, & Law, 5, 100-119.

Strier, F. (1999). Whither trial consulting? Law and Human Behavior, 23, 93-115.


biography        courses        books        research        trial consulting        home

Last updated March, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Saul Kassin, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
Site design Academic Web Pages