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PSL3072 - Psychological foundations of law

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Leader: Dr Shantha Rajaratnam


Clayton Second semester 2007 (Day)


This unit focuses on ways in which the fields of psychology and law interact, in particular the application of scientific and professional aspects of psychology to issues concerning the law and legal systems. Topics to be covered include theories of criminal behaviour, assessment of fitness for trial, criminal responsibility, treatment of mentally ill offenders and forensic patients, violence and risk assessment, confidentiality, eyewitness testimony, jury decision making, psychological assessment of injured persons, involuntary commitment and expert witness testimony. Students will also undertake in-depth research of a specific subject matter relevant to the field of psychology and law.


  1. Upon successful completion of this unit, students will have acquired an understanding of:
    1. the application of psychological principles and research methods to the legal system, legal process and policy;
    2. ways in which psychologists may be involved in the legal system; and
    3. principles of law which are relevant to the field of psychology, in particular the notions of mental impairment and criminal responsibility.
  2. Students will develop skills in the critical evaluation of forensic psychology research and theories.
  3. Students will have acquired competence and generic skills such as written and oral communications of psychological research and theory in the legal context, group and team management in carrying out group research, and critical thinking and analysis in the preparation of an individual research paper.


Individual report based on group research (3000 words): 30%
Research presentation: 10%
Examination: 60%

Contact hours

Two 1 hour lectures and one 2 hour tutorial each week


LAW1100: Legal process PSY2051: Research Design and Analysis


LAW3300: Criminal Law and Procedure PSY2042: Cognitive and Social Psychology


PSY3142: Psychology and the Law