Psychology and Law

Module titlePsychology and Law
Module codePSY3411
Academic year2015/6
Module staff

Dr Avril Mewse (Convenor)

Dr Cris Burgess (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This course links Psychology with disciplines such as Law and Sociology. It will provide you with an understanding of basic conceptual issues, such as the meaning of justice, along with various aspects of the Criminal Justice System (e.g. policing, the jury system, sentencing policy) and how the study of various sub-disciplines within Psychology can help us to understand the underlying processes. Different methods are used, both passive (lectures, expert panel, information exchange) and active (classroom debates, group discussion, role-play, accompanied visit to the Crown Court).

No prior knowledge is expected, though Stage 1 and 2 modules in human cognition, social and developmental psychology provide a helpful background.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module builds on Stage 1 and 2 modules in human cognition, social and developmental psychology, and provides access to current research that enables a critical examination of a selection of issues in the general area of law and psychology, at both conceptual and practical, applied levels. The module aims, in particular, to examine common perceptions of justice, to provide an in-depth insight into how individuals interact with, and are affected by, the Criminal Justice System and to critically evaluate the role Psychology can play in the development of the CJS. The module also aims to provide an overview of the various roles psychologists perform within it, forensic psychologists working within police, prison service or National Health Service, and the opportunities to act as an expert witness.

Through attending the weekly seminars and completing the assessments, you will further develop the following academic and professional skills: problem solving (linking theory to practice, developing your own ideas with confidence, showing entrepreneurial awareness, being able to respond to novel and unfamiliar problems), managing structure (identifying key demands of the task, setting clearly defined goals, responding flexibly to changing priorities), time management (managing time effectively individually and within a group), collaboration (respecting the views and values of others, taking initiative and leading others, supporting others in their work, maintaining group cohesiveness and purpose), and audience awareness (presenting ideas effectively in multiple formats, persuading others of the importance and relevance of your views, responding positively and effectively to questions).

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe comprehensively research on law and psychology, critically evaluate that research and appreciate how and when psychology can be applied to legal issues (e.g. reform of the jury system, methods of interrogation, sentencing)

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 2. Acquire detailed, systematic and comprehensive knowledge within the discipline, with in-depth specialisation at the forefront of the discipline in certain areas, and demonstrate advanced critical understanding of this knowledge and of the limits and provisional nature of this knowledge
  • 3. Review and critically evaluate published work at an advanced level and identify the strengths and weaknesses of this work, and at an advanced level structure this literature to present logical, coherent and sustained arguments to support conclusions at an advanced level
  • 4. Address systematically complex problems at an advanced level which may be framed within unpredictable contexts, think critically, creatively and independently, and fully appreciate the complexities of the issues
  • 5. Understand and apply essential principles in designing novel research, and critically evaluate and analyse empirical evidence, and assess the reliability of empirical evidence using a range of defined techniques at an advanced level
  • 6. Illustrate the wider ethical issues relating to the subject and its application at an advanced level

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Interact effectively and supportively within a learning group
  • 8. Manage your own learning using the full range of resources of the discipline and with minimum guidance
  • 9. Describe your own criteria of self-evaluation and challenge received opinion and reflect on your actions, and seek and make use of feedback
  • 10. Select and manage information, and undertake competently study tasks with minimum guidance
  • 11. Take responsibility for your own work and criticise it
  • 12. Engage effectively in debate in a professional manner and produce detailed and coherent written work
  • 13. Identify with confidence and flexibility complex problems and apply appropriate knowledge and methods for their solution
  • 14. Act autonomously with minimal supervision or direction, within agreed guidelines
  • 15. Manage time effectively to meet deadlines

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module consists of a series seminars based around the following topics:

  • Introduction to Psychology and Law – the history and meaning of justice in England and Wales
  • Rule-governed behavior
  • The criminal personality
  • Testimony
  • Crown Court visits
  • Jury decision-making
  • Psychology and policing
  • Crime and gender
  • Forensic psychology
  • Sentencing, deterrence and rehabilitation
  • Reform of the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales (summary and revision)


The order in which these seminars are delivered may vary, according to availability of speakers.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching33Seminars
Guided Independent Study57Reading in preparation for weekly seminars and debates, following reading list recommendations linked to ELE module homepage and independently exploring further sources of information using links provided.
Guided Independent Study30Further exploratory research and subsequent reading in preparation for writing CA component.
Guided Independent Study30Further exploratory research and subsequent reading in preparation for final exam.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Feedback on small-group discussions within seminars1-11, 13-15Oral
Feedback on performance within class debates1-11, 13-15Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination603 hoursAllWritten, group feedback posted on ELE
Essay402000 wordsAllWritten, individual feedback on script, generic feedback posted on ELE


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExaminationAllAug Ref/Def
EssayEssayAllAug Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Two assessments are required for this module. Where you have been referred/deferred in the examination you will have the opportunity to take a second examination in the August/September re-assessment period. Where you have been referred/deferred in the essay you will be required to resubmit the essay. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%; deferred marks are not capped.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

There is no set text for this course. The following books provide a good overview of many of the issues discussed in each week:

  • Howitt, (2002) Forensic and Criminal Psychology. Prentice-Hall: Harlow.
  • Memon, Vrij and Bull (2003) Psychology and Law. Wiley: Chichester.
  • McEwan (2003) The Verdict of the Court. Hart: Oxford.
  • Innes (2003) Understanding Social Control. OUP: Maidenhead


The following journals also contain relevant research (all available online in full text):

  • Criminology.
  • Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
  • Journal of Applied Psychology.
  • Legal and Criminological Psychology.
  • Law and Human Behaviour.
  • Psychology, Crime and Law.
  • Psychology, Public Policy and Law.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Psychology, forensic, law, criminology, rule-governed behaviour, transgression, criminal justice

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date