Forensic Psych

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Forensic Psychology

Psychology involves the scientific study of mental functions and behaviors of the human body. It can be looked as being broken down into two categories, basic psychology and applied psychology. Basic psychology is the use of theories and fundamentals to explain how attitudes, personalities, values, and behaviors are related while applied psychology is the use of these psychological principles and theories to overcome problems in real life situations. Some of the basic psychology studies include abnormal, cognitive, developmental, and social psychology. Applied psychology applies these studies in things like clinical, forensic, health, and educational psychology. I chose to explore the study of an applied type of psych, forensic psychology. Forensic psychology is the application of the science and profession of psychology to questions issues relating to law and the legal system. The word 'forensic' comes from the Latin word 'forensis,' meaning 'of the forum,' where the law courts of ancient Rome were held. Not only does forensic psychology require understanding of the different psychological studies but also an understanding of the law and how it works. Looking at legal issues from a psychological standpoint combines psychology and the law. This form of psychology is used frequently in the legal system. Legal systems make use of forensic psychologists and their practice in evaluations of the mental status of defendants before, during and after trial proceedings. Most may think forensic psychology is only used in criminal matters but forensic psychologist may also assist in a wide variety of civil matters. Civil matters can include lawsuits or insurance claims where emotional affliction is a part of the claim. Determination of competency of an aged or ill person to make decisions, or whether a death was an accident or a “disguised suicide” in an insurance claim case are both examples of how forensic psychology can help aid certain legal cases. The idea of forensic psychology first came about in the late 1800’s. But it wasn’t until the 1900’s when a German psychologist by the name of Hugo Munsterberg claimed that psychology should be applied to the law. Even though this is a couple hundred years from today, it wasn’t until 2001 that the American Psychological Association recognized forensic psychology as a specialization under the study of psychology. In 1906, a defense attorney asked Hugo to review his convicted client’s investigation and trial records. This promoted his 1908 book “On the Witness Stand”. It detailed how psychological factors can influence the outcome of a trial. In the book, he discussed problems with eyewitness testimony, false confessions, and interrogations. Munsterberg points out that for various reasons why eye witness testimony is essentially unreliable, he describes how eye witness testimony is naturally susceptible to what he calls "illusions" where a subjects perceptions could be affected causing an inaccurate testimony. In the portion of the book that he calls "The Detection of Crime", he discusses the many factors that can influence testimonies, gain confessions, and force confessions from those who are innocent. He explains some of the ways that police have of making suspects confess to crimes that they had not committed, some of these including making their life as uncomfortable as possible while in holding to be able to break down their energy, and "worst of all giving brutal shocks given with fiendish cruelty to the terrified imagination of the suspect. " Later, in 1917 one of Munsterberg’s students, William Marston, discovered that systolic blood pressure and lying were directly correlated. This discovery helped lead the creation of the modern polygraph detector Forensic psychology was largely stagnant until the 1940s and 1950s, when psychologists began regularly testifying in courts as experts on a range of psychological topics. They became able to conduct...
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