Forensic psychology


The human being is generally motivated by a series of reasons that lead him in some cases to commit a certain crime before the law, and sometimes these attitudes may be conditioned by his mental state.  Faced with the question that arises from knowing whether the actions have been committed with full consent or not, forensic , legal and criminal psychology is born.


What is forensic psychology?

Forensic psychology is the science in charge of studying the conduct of man in the legal field in order to obtain information regarding the personality and behavior of the person who has committed a specific crime.



Forensic psychology is one of the many branches of psychology that studies the behavior and conduct of a person who commits a crime. It is the means by which a large amount of information can be obtained regarding the type of personality and behavior that a person who has committed a crime possesses , mainly looking if he suffers from some type of mental pathology that has led him to inflict the law.


Characteristics of forensic psychology

Among the main characteristics of this type of psychology the following are mentioned:

  • Assesses the psychological damage on the part of the person who has committed a crime within criminal law .
  • It is applied through a forensic psychologist who must have knowledge in the field of law and laws.
  • Make different assessments regarding psychic damage .
  • It is a function of the Judicial Power of a state.
  • It works as a technical instrument in the correct administration of justice.
  • It is also known by the name of legal psychology .
  • It is an auxiliary in the administrative processes of justice, processes that take place within a court.


One of the main antecedents of forensic psychology takes place in the year 1873 when Wundt managed to create the first psychology laboratory in Germany. Subsequently, a series of events were presented and Hugo Münsterberg was able to guarantee that forensic science had the great capacity to provide a series of benefits to the legal system . In 1895, a series of experiments began to form the roots of forensic psychology.


The history of this branch of psychology begins at the moment in which the first laboratory that studied human behavior is founded , from that moment, the idea of ​​studying the possible relationship between the way of behaving of man and criminality arises . During the nineteenth century , psychologists began to be used to work in trials throughout Europe and in subsequent years, the first attempts by experts to be able to relate forensic activity with behavior appeared in 1923, they sat down precedents for the use of expert witnesses during trials, a situation that made forensic psychology develop considerably.

It was after the Second World War that science could be established as a discipline , psychologists began to be used in trials and the recognition of science increased considerably. At present, this science is offered as a university degree and little by little psychology is joined by criminology.

Who is the father of forensic psychology

Johann Baptista Gustav Gross is considered the father of forensic psychology as it was he who began to develop different types of methods to be able to clarify with greater ease and certainty the crimes committed.

What is it for

Forensic psychology serves to be able to carry out cognitive evaluations of people who have been accused of committing a crime and the level of involvement that it has within the criminal process . It can also assess the presence of some types of psychological problems or psychopathological disorders that may be suffered by the accused, without his realizing it. It also serves to assess the psychological capabilities of the people under study, as well as the presence of sequelae due to past disorders or trauma.

What do you study

This type of psychology studies the profile of a defendant or criminal, the crime scene and the structure in which this person acted at the time of committing the crime. Also look for the possible presence of illnesses or mental problems that may have been responsible for the crime being committed.


The main objective of forensic psychology is to be able to carry out a careful evaluation of the aggressors to obtain important information about their age, status, employment and way of life. It also evaluates all the objects of the aggressor that have been found at the scene and devises appropriate strategies to be able to question the accused in order to obtain in this way as much information as possible.


Their functions involve the development of psychological profiles of the accused based on what was found at the crime scene , they evaluate the credibility of the testimonies that are presented by witnesses and criminals using psychological techniques capable of analyzing the information using criteria and indicators. of conduct. In addition, it also helps provide advice to judicial personnel so that they can adequately perform an investigative role.

Areas of forensic psychology

The areas where this type of psychology can be applied are:

  • Family law : in this case science helps children to overcome the situation they face, for example in divorce or assault proceedings .
  • Criminal law: it  is a science that can make diagnoses and evaluations to people who have a criminal process for a crime committed.
  • Legal of the minor : it is in charge of keeping track of minors who commit any type of crime.
  • Police : it is in charge of determining which people are suitable to occupy a police position, which will depend on their social skills, handling of situations and psychopathology.
  • Testimony : conducts research in experimental and social psychology in order to determine the credibility of the testimonies presented before a jury.
  • Civil law: review the ability of legal constructs to make good decisions.
  • Penitentiary : carry out a series of behavior and personality studies on people who are deprived of liberty , their attitudes, character and temperament. He is also in charge of giving therapies and screening techniques to later provide a final report.


Perhaps one of the main problems that can occur in forensic psychology are contentious procedures where there are often conflicts of interest between the parties involved, which try to influence and exert direct or indirect pressure on the psychologist to adjust the arguments that they will be used later in court. A second problem is related to the collection of data only from one of the affected and conflicting parties, which can cause harm to the person who cannot be investigated.


The theories that influence forensic psychology are:

  • Psychobiological theory that states that the reason for the behavior lies in heredity, genetics and possible congenital damage caused by mutations, malformations and environmental contamination .
  • Intrapsychic or emotional reaction theory that says that people are vulnerable during early childhood to suffer from traumas, conflicts and complexes that could not be resolved, thus causing them to remain in the unconscious and that by not being treated can lead to criminal acts.
  • Behavioral theory that says that everything in the human being is obtained through experience and stimuli and that personality and behavior are then a set of reactions that are learned in the family and social environment.


Forensic psychology plays a very important role within the legal field as it has the ability to study and highlight the mental state of a person who has committed a crime. You can prove or disapprove that at the time of the incident, the mind of the accused may have been affected by his conduct and therefore plays a vital role in providing relevant information within a judicial process . It is through this science that it is possible to provide the best advice to lawyers, prosecutors and judges who must make important decisions in a trial.


Among the main representatives of this important branch of psychology the following are mentioned:

  • Wilhelm Wundt
  • Hugo Münsterberg
  • James McKeen Cattell
  • William Marston


A clear example where this type of psychology plays a very important role is in the case of rape of minors. It is through this branch that it is possible to determine if there is some type of mental condition in the rapist’s mind that has led to the attack and at the same time assesses the psychological damage that has been produced in the minor.

Books on forensic psychology

Some examples of books that can be found that address the subject are:

  • Forensic psychology treatise.
  • Forensic Psychology Manual.
  • Practical cases in forensic psychology.
  • Forensic medical psychology.

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