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The Interface between Psychology and Law: Continuous Improvement in Claimant, Lawyer and Expert’s Experience.
- May 10, 2017
- Latest News
Koch HCH, Palmer H & Reay K.
The field of ‘psychology and law’ is now recognised as an important area of practical study aiming to understand and enhance justice in criminal, civil and family contexts (1). Psychologists and lawyers use interchangeable terms such as ‘legal psychology’, ‘therapeutic jurisprudence’, ‘psychological jurisprudence’ when debating how psychology impinges on law, in practice, research and/or educational ways. Every area of psychology (e.g. developmental, social, clinical, cognitive) is relevant to some aspect of law (2). This possible application emerged in the early years of the twentieth century with Sigmund Freud’s clinical work, and Musterberg’s experimental /court room work. In 1969, the American Psychology-Law Society (AP-LS) was started followed by a number of journals addressing legal psychology (e.g. Law and Human Behaviour; International Journal of Law and Psychiatry). The relationship between the two disciplines has expanded and deepened over the past 40 years with considerable optimism on both sides.
Both professions, Psychology and Law, aim at ‘uncertainty avoidance’ in their respective searches for truth and justice. Uncertainty is intrinsic to the scientific and legal processes. Over time uncertainty is reduced, and conclusions revised by additional, new or contrary data. Law is important and shapes our lives from ‘womb to tomb’. Many issues confronted by the legal system are inescapably psychological.
Contemporary 21st Century Therapeutic Jurisprudence
Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ) developed by law professors, Wexler and Winick, in the US in the 1980’s is based on the practical premise that findings from the behavioural sciences, predominantly psychology, can inform and improve how litigation is carried out. Practical examples have predominantly emerged from the context of criminal justice e.g. problem solving courts, drug treatment courts, eye witness testimony (3). More recently, professionals working in the civil justice system in Europe (4,5) have addressed how psychology and law can constructively interact. The UK/Sweden collaboration (4) has illustrated the relevance of many psychological processes: -
• Individual, idiographic approaches to claimant functioning and behaviour
• Systems or organisational approaches to how the civil courts operate
• Ways to enhance claimant responsiveness and satisfaction
• Process improvement in expert skills and expert-other interaction
• Total Quality Management in law firms, the courts and medico-legal agencies
• Dispute/conflict resolution via the innovative Joint Statement process.
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