Forensic psychology: definition and functions of the forensic psychologist
What is the role of judicial psychologists?
As we have already explained in other posts psychology is the science that studies human behavior and mental processes in a broad sense.. These mental processes are the genesis of behavior: our thinking ends up materializing in certain motivations, attitudes and tangible and observable behaviors.
Forensic Psychology: one of the fields in psychology
But what is forensic psychology? The term forensic comes from the Latin forum. That is, the square, the public space where, in Roman times, public trials took place.
Thus, forensic psychology is the branch of forensic psychology, forensic psychology is the branch of psychology that studies and intervenes in the judicial processes in order to provide data and knowledge to help resolve cases. Forensic psychology professionals are forensic psychologists, and their function is to collect, study and correctly interpret the different psychological data that can provide important elements for a trial.
Functions and skills of forensic psychologists
Forensic psychology professionals, in addition to being graduates in psychology, must have knowledge and tools specific to judicial, procedural and criminal law. This allows them to have the necessary background to be able to accurately understand judicial processes and correctly apply psychological techniques in this field.
Forensic psychologists work together with lawyers, experts, prosecutors and judges. In fact, forensic psychologists act as forensic psychologists act as expert witnesses when giving professional testimony in certain trials.A professional psychologist, providing data and knowledge of interest to collaborate with Justice and ensure that the circumstances of the case can be clarified, at least as far as certain psychological and/or psychopathological aspects of some or all of the parties involved are concerned.
A professional psychologist, but also a legal expert
A forensic psychologist is not simply a psychologist who performs certain tasks in a state administration of justice. In fact, he/she is a master of all the concepts, rules and dynamics of the legal system in which he or she is involved..
The forensic psychologist has a comprehensive understanding of all legal and procedural mechanisms. In fact, if this were not the case, he/she could easily be excluded from certain processes in which he/she participates, having lost the credibility of the different actors involved in the trial. The judicial system is a formal system in which methods and procedures are of paramount importance. Hence, the forensic psychologist, in addition to being an expert in his field, must know and adapt perfectly to these regulations.
What are the functions of a forensic psychologist in court?
There are many elements and factors in which forensic psychology plays a key role in the context of a judicial process. In order to help the judge make the right decisions, the forensic psychologist makes a series of knowledge and tools available to the case.
One of the most common functions refers to the study that forensic psychologists carry out on the mental faculties and psychological conditions of one of the parties involved in a case. of some of the parties involved in a trial (defendants, complainants and even witnesses). This analysis helps to elucidate, in the case of defendants, whether they were of sound mind at the time they allegedly committed a crime. For example, if there is a defendant charged with homicide, a forensic psychologist would have the ability to make a report indicating whether, at the time of the crime, the defendant was aware of his or her actions.
The training of a forensic psychologist
We have talked about what forensic psychology is and also about the tasks performed by judicial psychology professionals. However: what training must a forensic psychologist have in order to be able to practice?
This point is more complicated to explain, since each country has a different legislation regarding the background academic background required for this type of professional. In general, we can say that, in order to work in forensic psychology, the professional must have a degree or university degree in psychology, and then specialize in one of these branches: organizational psychology, social psychology or clinical psychology, the latter being especially relevant.
Afterwards, must take a postgraduate or Master's degree in forensic psychology.. However, it is of particular interest that the forensic psychologist has extensive knowledge of psychological assessment, psychopathologies and diagnostic and intervention techniques. As the forensic psychologist has to help elucidate whether the accused person has mental disorders or not, part of his or her work resembles that of a clinical psychologist, although in this case his or her interests and those of the person being evaluated do not usually coincide.
Role in penal and corrective measures
In addition to the above, forensic psychology also has some influence when it comes to informing and suggesting the type of treatment that a person sentenced to deprivation of liberty should follow. Thus, the judge can have more elements to decide how the sentence will be executed and what will be the corrective measures imposed..
Forensic psychology collaborates and describes, but does not judge.
It is worth pointing out that forensic psychology can help a judge to determine certain psychological factors of the parties involved in a judicial process; it can explain the behavior of a person to make it more understandable that he or she has been a victim or aggressor in certain circumstances. This information is provided to the court so that it may be able to make a considered decision on the facts.
However, the forensic psychologist is not empowered to defend or act as a prosecutor for any of the parties involved. in a lawsuit. Its function is descriptive and informative, and therefore it must be completely neutral.
The courts of justice usually ask very specific questions to the forensic psychologist, always related to the case being judged and about the different psychological variables that may have influenced the facts. The terminology used by the various judicial actors is typical of the legal field, and thus the forensic psychologist is also expected to adhere to a language that is unambiguous and consistent with the context..
In other words, the different actors involved in the judicial process (judge, lawyers, prosecutors and jury) need to know the direct effects of the psychological state of some of those involved in order to determine to what extent they are responsible for their actions. In this regard, it should be clarified that it would make no sense for the forensic psychologist to make digressions about the psychological state of any of the parties being judged beyond the task entrusted to him/her, which is to to shed light on the psychological circumstances of the parties involved during the events. during the events and, by extension, the treatment to be given to any of the parties, if necessary.
Guilt, responsibility, exonerating factors...
Forensic psychologists are often the subject of controversy. This is because, as professionals in the judicial field, they also have the power to influence have the power to influence the decisions of the courts of law.. For example, forensic psychologists may point out the appropriateness of exonerating a defendant from guilt on the grounds that, at the time of the events, he or she was not aware of his or her actions. Thus, they have the ability to release an individual, even if he or she may have been the actual perpetrator of a crime.
Judicial psychologists can also advise on the application of aggravating or mitigating factors in certain crimes, indications that may have an impact on the sentence imposed on the defendant.
These functions always involve great controversy. For example, in the case of a defendant who murdered a child, if he is declared unimpeachable on clinical (psychiatric) grounds, the family of the murdered child may erupt in anger against such a decision, even if it has strict clinical grounds.
Nevertheless, and although it may generate all kinds of social debates, the truth is that forensic psychology contributes decisively to a balanced and fair dispensation of justice, if I may be redundant.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)