Psychology and Law
The Psychology and Law Program training area, with faculty, students, and labs based primarily at John Jay College, emphasizes training in research as well as in applied work, such as policy development. It prepares students to be academics and applied researchers who can provide professional psychological expertise to and within the criminal and civil legal systems. Our program values social justice and continuously strives to advocate for fair and equitable treatment across all members of our society. We recognize that our criminal and legal systems, both historically and currently, oppress and disadvantage people of specific races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, national origins, and religious affiliations. Therefore, our program aims to train students in: 1. Basic psychological theory, 2. The application of psychological theories to legal and forensic contexts, and 3. How individuals’ identities, as well as the integration and intersectionality of various identities, influence their experiences within these contexts.
The Psychology and Law Program includes social, cognitive, developmental, policy and decision sciences orientations, as well as the integration of these areas. Scholarly activity by members of the program brings these psychological orientations to bear on issues such as:
Children’s experiences as victims and witnesses
Evidence-informed integration and transformation of the juvenile and adult criminal legal systems
Eyewitness identification (both false and accurate)
Forensic Interviewing of children and vulnerable witnesses
Forensic science and confirmation biases
Interviewing and interrogation
Jury decision-making in criminal and civil cases
Memory (including false memory, alibis, and the effects of social interaction and trauma)
Policing & Public Safety
Racial disparities in eyewitness identifications
Racial disparities in police decision making
Study of crime scenes and criminal behavior
DIVERSITY, EQUITY, INCLUSION, AND BELONGING (DEIB) STATEMENT:
Social justice is a shared value within the Psychology and Law Training Area. Our faculty and students are advocates for fairness and equity in both our research and actions. We recognize that, due in large part to discrimination, injustice, and systemic oppression, most researchers in the field of Psychology and Law do not reflect the characteristics of those who are most often affected by the system we study. As such, we are committed to changing the demographic profile of the researchers and teachers of Psychology and Law. We strive to diversify the field by training the next generation of diverse researchers, teachers, and leaders in the field. We hope to accomplish this mission by welcoming faculty with wide-ranging perspectives and identities into our program and by both educating and learning from students with various backgrounds.
The mission of the Psychology and Law program is to train its students to become critical, thoughtful, productive scholars prepared to address psycho-legal social issues through their work. We seek to (a) instill in our students understanding of psychology as a science and of the law, broadly construed; (b) promote human welfare, address social issues and serve society at large; (c) foster student growth and development; and (d) prepare students to serve professionally in academic and applied domains. This mission comes in the context of the larger Graduate Center mission of serving its diverse student population.
To best address our mission, the program’s training philosophy has some key components. First, we seek to make all of our students’ activities meaningful – whether as a form of personal or professional development. For example, all of the milestones for student progress are designed to be “value-added” to their education (e.g., grant-writing for comprehensive examinations). Second, our training is geared directly toward the skills and capacities our students will need to compete and succeed professionally in either academic or applied domains. For example, training tasks include teaching, conducting original research, grant writing, attending and giving presentations at conferences, etc. Third, our overarching goal is to train students in the art of translating our knowledge into action – through teaching, training of external groups (e.g., judges, attorneys), expert testimony, writing, consulting, and so forth.
To these ends, we seek to ensure that students gain understanding of the science of psychology and of the law through required coursework (e.g., content courses in domains such as social and developmental psychology, and five statistics and research methods courses). Our faculty are actively involved in socially relevant research and translating their research in actual cases, work that is modeled for and shared with our students. Our students receive numerous opportunities in and outside of their classes to practice those professional activities that best prepare them for professional work: giving presentations, writing grants, seeking ethics approval, presenting at conferences, writing manuscripts, writing op-ed and/or policy-relevant position papers, etc. We also seek to train our students how to teach, through active involvement with Graduate Center-based teacher training (i.e., pedagogy days), as well as scaffolded teaching opportunities (TA, then recitation leader, then teaching classes) and instruction through departmental teaching seminars. We also offer numerous opportunities for students to learn from other scholars through colloquia and brown bag presentations. All of these activities contribute to our students’ growth personally and as budding scholars.
Review admissions information:
- Criminal Justice
Margaret Bull Kovera
Director of Psychology & Law Training Area:
View a list of important contacts in the Psychology & Law training area