Psychology and Law

The Psychology and Law Program training area, with faculty, students, and labs based primarily at John Jay College, emphasizes research training across the breadth of domains in which psychology and law intersect. We prepare students as academicians and applied researchers who can provide professional psychological expertise to and within the criminal and civil justice systems, and offer training in applied work such as evaluation research and policy development. This Program prepares students to develop and conduct independent basic science research related to Psychology and Law. The program includes social, cognitive, developmental, policy and decision sciences orientations and preparation.

Scholarly activity by members of the program addresses issues such as: jury decision-making in criminal and civil cases (e.g., impact of pretrial publicity, expert testimony, legal instructions, juror characteristics, evidence presentation styles and technologies); the ability of jurors to understand and use scientific and probabilistic evidence; the plausibility of psychological assumptions built into legal rules of evidence and procedure; group processes in juries; jury selection by attorneys and social scientists; the accuracy of child and adult eyewitness identification and crime reports; adolescent brain development and risk-taking behavior; trauma and witness memory; the development and detection of deception; the impact of investigative procedures on witness memory; assessment of the utility and biases inherent in police procedures; police psychology; attributions of blame in sexual assault; the intersection of psychology, gender, and the law; impact of and responses to injustice; inter-group relations and prejudice; analysis of crime scenes and criminal behavior; and the psychology of confessions, false confessions and alibis.

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.

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Director of Psychology & Law Training Area:
Charles Stone

View a list of important contacts in the Psychology & Law training area