Forensic psychology deals with the scientific methods and tests employed in connection with the investigation of a crime. In order to be recognized by a court, the forensic psychologist must be capable of translating the psychological findings into legal language. The forensic psychologist may be trained in organizational, social, clinical, or any other branch of psychology but to be designated as an expert witness in a certain jurisdiction, the relevant training and experience counts. Depending upon experience a psychologist may be considered for more than one jurisdiction. To determine if a person is legally competent to stand trial in case of brain damage or related issues, a forensic neuropsychologist is usually designated by the court. R. J. Gregory, in his work Psychological Testing: History, Principles and Application, has defined the role of forensic psychologist as involving the evaluation of possible malingering, the mental state of insanity plea, competency to stand trial, prediction of violence and risk assessment, child custody in divorce, personal injury, polygraph data and forensic personality assessment.
1. Dr. Saul Kassin
Dr. Saul Kassin is an American psychologist best known for initiating the study of false confessions. Along with Lawrence Wrightsman, he studied three types of false confessions: voluntary, coerced-compliant, and coerced-internalized. This classification is recognized all over the world. He received the Presidential award from the American Psychological Association for his valuable work on false confessions. Kassim received his PhD in personality and social psychology from the University of Connecticut. In 2010 he, along with other experts, wrote a paper titled, Police-Induced Confessions: Risk Factors and Recommendations. He has also authored several other books on psychology, including The American Jury on Trial, The Psychology of Evidence and Trial Procedure, Essentials of Psychology, and Developmental Social Psychology. He was awarded the U.S. Supreme Court Judicial Fellowship in 1984 and he has worked at the Federal Judicial Center in Washington D.C.
2. Elizabeth F. Loftus
Elizabeth F. Loftus was born in 1944 to Sidney and Rebecca Fishman, and was raised in Bel Air, California. She received her PhD in mathematical psychology from Stanford University in 1970. Loftus is best known for her misinformation effect paradigm, which states that memory is highly malleable and receptive to suggestion and that the memories of eyewitnesses are altered when exposed to incorrect information about an event. She set a legal precedent in 1975, when she provided Washington state’s first expert testimony about eyewitness memory. She has testified in more than 250 cases including some high profile cases like O.J.Simpson, Michael Jackson, Rodney King, the Bosnian War Trials in Hague, the Oklahoma City Bombing and many others. Her work has been recognized throughout the world and she has received numerous awards and honorary degrees. Loftus was the highest ranking woman in the Review of General Psychology’s list of the 100 most influential psychological researchers of the 20th century.
3. Aldert Vrij
Aldert Vrij is a professor of social psychology in the University of Portsmouth in England. He is best known for the use of verbal and non-verbal cues for lie detection. He received his PhD from Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam in 1991. He is editor of the prestigious journal Legal and Criminological Psychology, published by the British Psychological Society. He also serves on the board of governors of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. He is considered one of the leading authorities on the detection of deception.
4. James McKeen Cattell
James McKeen Cattell was born in Easton, Pennsylvania on May 25, 1860 and died on January 20, 1944. He received his master’s degree in English literature. After meeting Wilhelm Wundt in Germany, he became interested in psychology and studied it for short time at John Hopkins University; later on he served as Wilhelm Wundt’s assistant. He became the president of the American Psychological Association in 1895. Cartell played a vital role in establishing many major psychology journals including Journal of Science, Popular Science Monthly, and The Psychological Review.
5. Mamie Phipps Clark
Mamie Phipps Clark was born to Harold and Katie Phipps in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She attended segregated elementary and secondary schools and graduated from Langston High School in 1934. She received her M.A in psychology. She was one of the first African-American women to receive a PhD in psychology from Columbia University. Along with her husband Kenneth Clark, she founded the Northside Center for Child Development. The center is now more than 60 years old and continues to provide therapeutic and educational support for children of 5-17 years of age. Her work relating to children is considered valuable in forensic psychology.
6. Kenneth Bancroft Clark
Kenneth Bancroft Clark was the husband of Mamie Phipps Clark, who would never have been able to create the Northside Center of Child Development in Harlem without him. He was the first African-American to earn a PhD from Columbia University, while his wife Mamie Phipps Clark was the second African-American to earn a PhD in psychology from Columbia University. The Clark couple testified as expert witnesses in Briggs v. Elliot and Brown vs. the Board of Education. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the Brown vs. the Board of Education case, ‘To separate them [African-American children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone’.
7. William Moulton Marston
William Moulton Marston was born on May 9, 1893 in Cliftondale, Massachusetts and died on May 2, 1947 at the age of 53 years in Rye, New York. He was an American psychologist and comic writer known for crafting the popular character Wonder Woman.
He was educated at Harvard University and received his bachelors degree in 1915, LLB in 1918 and PhD in 1921. He is best known for the systolic blood pressure test. He established that systolic blood pressure was correlated with lies, and this formed the basis of the modern polygraph lie detector.
8. Lewis Terman
Lewis Terman was born on January 15, 1877 in Johnson County, Indiana and died on December 21, 1956 at the age of 79 in Palo Alto, California. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Indiana University, Bloomington and earned his PhD in psychology from Clark University in 1905. He is best known as the inventor of the Stanford Binet IQ test. He is also known for applying psychology to law enforcement and for his research study on high IQ children. He has also served as a president of the American Psychological Association.
9. Hugo Munsterberg
Hugo Munsterberg was born to Moritz and Minna Anna Bernhardi, on June 1, 1863 in Danzig, German Confederation and died on December 19, 1916 at the age of 53 years, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is best known for emphasizing the importance of forensic psychology. He published On the Witness Stand in 1908 wherein he discussed different psychological factors which could change the outcome of a trial. Through his studies he showed that although the judges and jurymen can be very confident of their capabilities, their thinking might be highly susceptible to flaws.
10. Albert Freiherr von Schrenck-Notzing
Albert Freiherr von Schrenck-Notzing was born on May 18, 1862 and died on February 12, 1929. He was a German physician and psychologist. He was also a psychological researcher and had studied paranormal events relating to hypnotism, mediumship and telepathy. He investigated spiritual mediums, including Rudi Schneider, Willi Schneider and Valentine Dencausse. He was also one of the earliest practicing forensic psychologists. In 1896, while forensic psychology was not much known, he testified in a murder trial as a forensic psychologist.
In order for a forensic psychologist to be considered credible, an understanding of the adversarial system, in which two advocates represent two opponents before an impartial jury or judge, is a must. Collection of information from someone who is not well versed in the nature of an event, known as hearsay evidence, is another prerequisite. It is also required that the forensic psychologist know about the exclusionary rule that evidence collected in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights is not permissible for a criminal prosecution. In Shakespeare’s drama The Merchant of Venice, Portia perhaps acted like a forensic psychologist in the case of Shylock the Jew.