Forensic psychology has received considerable attention from the public and media during the past decade, thanks, in large part, to books and films such as Silence of the Iximbs and assorted television series and made-for-TV movies.
A commonly asked question of forensic psychologists is “How do I become a profiler?”, replacing, for better or worse, “So, you dissect dead people?” In fact, forensic psychologists have no contact with corpses (leaving that to forensic pathologists, forensic scientists, and forensic anthropologists). And some definitions of the field do not consider criminal profiling to be part of forensic psychology.
This book is intended to present the most up-to-date description of the field of forensic psychology. The chapters represent contemporary topics and areas of investigation in this exciting, rapidly expanding field. Forensic psychology’s roots date back to 1908, predating the public’s awareness of the field.
As is explained in the chapter by Ira Packer and Randy Borum, although Miinsterberg (1908) proposed various roles for psychologists as experts in court, it was not until the 1970s that efforts began to more formally define the field, to recommend qualifications for those practicing in this area, and to develop guidelines for both ethics and training.
Topics were selected to reflect forensic psychology’s applicability to both the civil and criminal justice systems. This volume is organized into sections, grouping topics with common themes. The reader will first develop an understanding of the nature of the field—what it is and why it is different from other areas of specialization—and, next, how forensic psychologists gather information: the methods they use to conduct assessments.
Not all psychologists testify in court about a specific individual (e.g., a plaintiff in a personal injury suit or a defendant in an insanity case). Some serve as consultants to law enforcement agencies evaluating police applicants, to attorneys as jury selection specialists, or testify as experts to educate juries about specific topics, such as accuracy of eyewitness memories. A section of this volume focuses on these “specialized” roles.
The word forensic, derived from the Latin, jo re ns is, means “forum,” the place where trials were conducted in Roman times. The current use of forensic denotes a relationship between one professional field, such as medicine, pathology, chemistry, anthropology, or psychology, with the adversarial legal system.
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