Psychology and Law: A Critical Introduction

Andreas Kapardis

Cambridge University Press 2003
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003
Psychology and Law is about various aspects of the legal process — witnesses, juries, judges, detecting deception, policing, and so forth — and not about forensic psychology. It is an academic work, intended for students of legal psychology, and a survey of the literature rather than a synthesis of it (it is extensively referenced and has a 65 page bibliography). And Kapardis' conclusions are restrained, sometimes bland, with often rather general practical recommendations: "not unequivocal", "further psycholegal research is needed", and so forth.

The result is rarely dull, however: criminal law is one of those intrinsically fascinating topics and its psychology is no exception. The chapters can also be read separately, allowing the reader to pick and choose the most interesting topics, and the volume is a useful reference. If you are interested in polygraph testing, for example, the nine pages on that in Psychology and Law are both readable in their own right and a useful guide to further reading.

It has chapters covering eyewitnesses, children as witnesses, the jury, sentencing, psychologists as expert witnesses, persuasion in the courtroom, detecting deception, witness recognition procedures, and the psychology of policing.

"Psychologists have known for some time that, generally speaking, an interrogative recall produces a greater range of information (that is, it is more complete) than free recall, but it is less accurate."
"Mock-juror/jury studies have been the most commonly used method by students of juridic behaviour, especially in the United States... This method has two important advantages: (a) one can investigate a number of significant variables while controlling for extraneous influences; and (b) it allows direct access to the deliberation process. However, the use of the experimental method has attracted a great deal of criticism, especially the relevance to actual juries of findings obtained under experimental conditions."
"With one exception, British studies of gender differences in sentencing have reported that female defendants receive more lenient sentences."
"Canadian courts have generally admitted expert testimony [from psychologists] on a broader range of issues instead of focusing narrowly on mental illness, as has been the approach of courts in England, Australia and New Zealand."
"The literature from a number of countries on both sides of the Atlantic indicates that people's inability to detect deceit at a level better than would be expected by chance is attributable to their erroneous stereotyped beliefs about cues to deceptive communication."
"The size of a line-up is one of two aspects of line-up fairness proposed by Malpass and Devine (1983). Interestingly, as Wagenaar and Veefkind (1992:277) have pointed out, 'Few countries prescribe the number of foils by law, but in practice a number around five is usual. Smaller and larger numbers are also found, usually without any justification'."

Kapardis draws on European research, but when it comes to legal guidelines and procedures the focus is on the common law countries, especially the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia (and the bibliography is pretty much entirely in English). As well as updated content, this second edition adds some textbook apparatus — brief outlines at the beginning and revision questions at the end of each chapter, along with one sentence marginal summaries and boxed case studies.

March 2003

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%T Psychology and Law
%S A Critical Introduction
%A Kapardis, Andreas
%I Cambridge University Press
%D 2003
%O paperback, bibliography, index
%G ISBN 0521531616
%P x,429pp