Psychology and Law

The text book 'Psychology and Law' by Kapardis (1997) endeavours to provide a complete and thorough review of recent literature, from a variety of European, Australian and North American sources. It is aimed at both post and undergraduate students and attempts to cover a wide range of subject's bordering the margin between criminal law and psychology. It is only during the last twenty years that the essential relationship between psychology and law has come to the forefront. "Both psychology and the courts are concerned with predicting, explaining and controlling behaviour" (Kapardis, 1997).

Therefore it was only a matter of time before these disciplines joined forces to develop, improve and aid the management of society. However the book not only boasts the benefits of psycholegal practices but also its limitations and inadequacies. For instance the way certain topics such as eyewitness testimony and courtroom procedures have been studied widely for some years compared with the minute amount of research on other important areas, for example legal advocacy, the relationship between the police and the public, and victim and lawyer interaction.

The book also highlights the popular mistake of excessively publicising psychological discoveries to the legal field. The author claims to combine information from a number of different research areas lying between psychology and law into one comprehensive text book: 'Psychology and law', an achievement he suggests other texts have fallen short of in recent years. The author does not however claim to encompass all areas within psychology and law, but instead only part of the interface between the two fields.

Many important topics such as civil law, clinical approaches to working with offenders, psychological evaluations of the courts competence, criminal responsibility, predicting violence and psychological profiles of offenders, to name a few, have not been touched upon at all. The first half of the book involves issues surrounding eyewitness testimony, such as, memory, attention and perception, methods used to assess testimony validity, variables affecting eyewitness memory, effective interviewing techniques, and the problems surrounding the use of children as witnesses.

It also contains chapters on the jury including a critical appraisal of its good and bad points, an assessment of the disparities within judicial criminal sentencing, as well as an examination of affecting factors such as gender and race, and a capital punishment debate. The second half of the book consists of chapters discussing the use of psychologists as expert witnesses, witness recognition procedures, a review of advocacy and persuasion, a chapter on techniques used to detect deception including an evaluation of the credibility of polygraph testing, and an analysis of verbal and non-verbal cues to deception.

The last chapter discusses a variety of issues concerning psychology and the police, such as police selection, stress, the questioning of suspects and the problem of false confessions. Overall the book is highly informative on the subjects it covers. Each chapter contains a contents of the issues it discusses, an introduction to the topic including a range of international perspectives and is broad ranging in the research included.

The author describes the subjectivity and inequalities of the legal system but also proposes some suggestions for reducing adverse influences on the judicial system. The book is well written and accessible to the lay person as well as the academic or professional, it provides an in-depth view on a wide range of important issues affecting psychology and law, through this the author manages to accomplish his objectives and create an authoritative psycholegal text book. Reference: Kapardis, A (1997). Psychology and Law. Cambridge University Press.