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Forensic Psychology and Cognitive Perspective Research Paper

Forensic Psychology and Cognitive Perspective Research Paper
Have you ever watched “The Practice” or “Law and Order” and wondered who selects the jury for a trial or helps the eyewitnesses fill in the fuzzy sections of their memories? Chances are you didn’t realize that the guy who performed the

lie detector test on the suspect in the last episode of “CSI” was a forensic psychologist either. These are just a few of the jobs fulfilled by legal or forensic psychologists. Forensic psychology is tied closest to the cognitive perspective.

The cognitive perspective was developed by George Miller, Jerome Bruner, and Ulrich Neisser throughout the 1900’s. It focused on identifying the process of thinking, memory, and organizing and storing information. It also looked at mental imaging, language, and dreams, with the main idea that perceptions and thoughts influence behavior. Forensic psychologists not only offer their expert opinion at trials, but can also be found helping a witness identify a murderer in a line of suspects. They sometimes hypnotize subjects to help them remember things or interview potential jury members to eliminate those who may be biased. These tasks relate to the cognitive activities of thinking, memory and perceptions. Other times, they give their own expert testimony at trials which could result in an individual being confined to a mental institution, receive huge monetary awards, obtain custody of a child, or lose his or her life. Legal psychologists play a big role in the justice system.

Forensic psychologists often work within the judicial system in such diverse areas as determining an inmate’s readiness for parole; evaluation of rehabilitation programs; criminal competency; tort liability and damages; evidence; jury selection; and police training. The evaluations of the mental state of individuals also communicate the cognitive perspective. They may also be employed in other areas of jurisprudence, including patent and trademark disputes, divorce and custody cases, product liability, and taxation. Psychologists advise their clients in several ways, including diagnostic appraisals, which may determine the capability of the client to stand trial. They are also called to provide clinically-based opinions on a wide variety of issues arising from their diagnoses. Sometimes they obtain hospital records, police reports, witness statements, and provide relevant research. Besides submitting these and other findings, they are often required to testify in court. Forensic psychologists may be hired by a defense attorney to evaluate the defendant’s mental processes. They administer personality and intelligence tests after being briefed on the circumstances of the crime and examining records detailing the mental or emotional problems and treatment. Forensic psychology can also be tied to the ideas of structuralism: structure of conscious experience (such as witnessing a crime); objective sensations- seeing, touching, tasting, hearing; and subjective feelings like memories and thoughts.

Legal psychologists are regularly consulted in child custody cases. Both parents must be evaluated, the children, and other relevant family members. It may involve visits to the home of each parent to find out additional information on the relationship between the parent and child and the living environment. They want to determine the best interests of the child. They may train police officers to handle diverse situations like domestic abuse, suicide threats, hostage crises, and how to control crowds. If the police have an idea of the mental processes of those they are involved with, they can do their jobs better. Clinicians who enter the forensic area seek to uncover truth whatever the implications may be.

Forensic psycho physiologists determine whether or not people are telling the truth with the use of polygraph machines. The machine records a person’s physical response to questions then the results are shared with the person at the requesting agency. The lie detector measures blood pressure, breathing, electrical conductivity of the skin, pulse, and perspiration in order to tell if a person is lying or not. This aspect of forensics especially ties back to the cognitive perspective and conscious thoughts. If the inquired party does not provide accurate answers, then their body’s reaction gives them away.

Forensic or legal psychology is most directly related to the cognitive perspective because most of this profession deals with mentality, memories and conscious thoughts. Psychologists assess witnesses and suspects for accuracy in objective thoughts and help enhance memories to uncover the truth and put away the bad guys.

Works Cited
Gall, Susan. The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1996.

Faust, David and Ziskin, Jay. “Science” [http://web3.infotrac.gale] July 1, 1088

Mariani, Matthew. “Occupational Outlook Quarterly” [http://web3.infotrac.gale] Spring 1996

Murphey, Joann, M.D. “Forensic Psychology” [] 2003