Psychology and Law

Psyc 449 - 02

Spring, 2016

Richmond Hall 101

3:00 – 4:15 Wednesdays and Fridays

Instructor: Dr. Jonathan Corbin (email:   Office: Richmond Hall M03C

Office Hours: By appointment

Course Description:  This course provides a broad overview of topics in psychology and law. It will cover psychological theory and methods relevant to legal topics such as eyewitness memory, expert and jury decision making, race, mental illness, age of maturity, and neuro-law.  These topics span multiple sub-fields, including cognitive, social, developmental, personality, and biological psychology.

Course Objectives: This course is meant to provide students with a better understanding of how psychological theory and research applies to legal systems, as well as how the law guides psychological research.  This course is not a complete overview of all psychological research relevant to the law, but it will prepare students to dig deeper into the literature and pursue their own interests with regard to psychology and law.

Specific Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this course, students will:

·      Have an understanding of psychological theories and research relevant to law and be able to apply them to real-world legal contexts.

·      Be able to critically examine research papers. This includes:

o   Understanding methods and results

o   Examining the breadth of the research

o   Putting the research in the context of the broader literature

o   Formulating ideas for follow-up research

·      Be able to synthesize research in an area and present it in a classroom setting

Expectations: Students who are taking this course for credit are expected to attend lecture and be prepared to participate in class discussions. In addition, it is expected that all assigned readings will be read before the scheduled class.

Class attendance and participation policy:  As this is a seminar, it is crucial that students do their best to attend every class throughout the semester, and arrive ready to be an active participant.  Active participation means arriving to class prepared (having read the material and completed assignments), contributing to discussions, building on others ideas, and being a mindful listener when others are speaking. This being said, there is no formal attendance policy for this course.  However, any graded activities missed during class will not be able to be made up.

Course readings:  There is a set of selected assigned readings that will be available on Blackboard. All assigned readings are matched with a particular date and class session as outlined in the course schedule.

Course Requirements and Evaluation

Class Participation/Involvement: Class participation is worth 30% of your final grade.

Participation will be evaluated via students’ daily reflections that will be submitted at the end of each class session. In some classes alternatives to daily reflections may be offered. After each lecture, students will access an electronic link (posted on blackboard) to write 5-10 sentences characterizing (a) the gist of what you learned in class today (i.e., capturing both psychological and legal perspectives – be specific but comprehensive) and (b) an unanswered or unaddressed question regarding the topic being discussed in class. Daily reflections are generally due 2 days after class. Over the course of the semester, each student must submit a minimum of 22 reflections (or alternative assignments) to receive this full 20% of their final grade. It is the students’ responsibility to submit these reflections; the instructor will not ask any student for missing reflections. Each student may only submit 1 reflection each class day to be counted toward their total.

Alternative Reflections (Creative Application): You will also have the opportunity to submit 4 creations that capture one of the topics we discussed in class. Points for this assignment will go toward your Daily Reflections score. This assignment requires you to find a way to creatively describe/explain/expand on one of the topics we have discussed in this class. This can be a poem, a song, a picture/cartoon/infographic, a news article review, or anything else that is creative as well as informative. Each submission will be worth up to 4 points (with a minimum score of 1 point), however, grading will be based on execution. Execution will be based on evaluation of creativity, educational utility, accuracy, and presentation quality.

Written Assignment: Choose a topic that interests you from the sections in this course.  Then, write a 750-1,000 word blog-style article (see for a reference (figures not required)) on the topic of interest.  The article should describe the research behind the topic (with links to the relevant articles), and give an example of why this research is important for the areas of psychology and law.  Top articles may be posted online for others to read. This assignment is worth 30% of your grade. You will be expected to write an outline (5% of the grade), a draft (10% of your grade), and a final paper (15% of your grade).

Educational Video Project: Expand on your written assignment by develop a set of approximately 10 survey questions examining lay beliefs regarding the topic as it applies to the law. Next, give the survey to at least 20 individuals. Next, you will create a 6 to 10 minute educational video (see and for examples) in which you will describe the topic and discuss survey results.  Finally, you will present on your topics at the end of the year. This project will be worth 40% of your final grade.  

Grading: Points given for assignments will be averaged and letter grades assigned according to the following scale: A+ = 99-100, A = 93 - 98, A- = 90 - 92 B+ = 87 - 89,

                           B = 83 - 86, B- = 80 – 82, C+ = 77 - 79, C = 73 - 76,

                           C- = 70 – 72, D+ = 67 - 69, D = 63 - 66, D- = 60 – 62,                                                                                                                              

                           F =  59 and below 

Academic Integrity: Each student in this course is expected to abide by the University of Richmond Honor Code (see All of the work you hand in for this class should be independently-conceived and written and reflective of your own original thinking.

Accommodations for students with disabilities: In compliance with the University of Richmond policy and equal access laws, I am available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations that may be required for student with disabilities. Requests for academic accommodations are to be made during the first three weeks of the semester, except for unusual circumstances, so arrangements can be made. Students are encouraged to register with Student Disability Services to verify their eligibility for appropriate accommodations.

Inclusivity Statement: We understand that our members represent a rich variety of backgrounds and perspectives. The Psychology department is committed to providing an atmosphere for learning that respects diversity. While working together to build this community we ask all members to:

  • share their unique experiences, values and beliefs
  • be open to the views of others
  • honor the uniqueness of their colleagues
  • appreciate the opportunity that we have to learn from each other in this community
  • value each other’s opinions and communicate in a respectful manner
  • keep confidential discussions that the community has of a personal (or professional) nature
  • use this opportunity together to discuss ways in which we can create an inclusive environment in this course and across the University of Richmond community  

IX. Tentative Course Schedule (May change to accommodate guest presenters & student needs)

Topics                                     Readings to be discussed             Assignment

January 13

Overview of Psychology and Law course

No Readings

Daily Reflection

January 15

Expert Testimony

Kassin, Tubb, Hosch, & Memon, 2001

Benton, Ross, Bradshaw, Thomas, & Bradshaw, 2006

Daily Reflection

Memory and Cognition

January 20

False Memory

Brainerd, 2013

Brainerd & Reyna, 2002

Watch “The Science of False Memory”

Daily Reflection

Start thinking about written assignment topics

January 22


Loftus, 2005

Watch “The Memory Factory”

Daily Reflection

January 27

False Confession

Kassin & Gudjonsson, 2004

Shaw & Porter, 2015

Daily Reflection

Turn in Written Assignment Topic

January 29

Eyewitness Procedures

Carlson & Carlson, 2014

Wells, 2006

Daily Reflection


Suggestion and Suggestibility

Bruck & Ceci, 1995

Daily Reflection

February 5

Review Memory and Cognition Section

Daily Reflection

Written Assignment Outline/Abstract Due

Creative Application 1 Deadline

Judgment and Decision Making

February 10

Story Model and Motivated Cognition

Pennington & Hastie, 1988

Sood, 2013

Daily Reflection

February 12

Cultural Cognition

Kahan, et al., 2012

Daily Reflection

February 17

Pretrial Publicity and Information Distortion

Ruva & Guenther, 2015

Hope, Memon, & McGeorge, 2004

Daily Reflection

February 19

Jury Decision-Making

Hans & Reyna, 2011

Bornstein & Greene, 2011

Daily Reflection

February 24

Law Enforcement and Decision Making

Stroshine et al., 2008

Daily Reflection

Creative Application 2 Deadline

February 26

Heuristics and Biases

Guthrie, Rachlinski, & Wistrich, 2001

Thomson & Schumann, 1987

Daily Reflection

Written Assignment Draft Due

March 2

Judgment and Decision Making Review

Kahan, 2015

Daily Reflection


March 4

Go over Video Blog Questions

Daily Reflection

March 16

Race and Bias

Eberhardt et al., 2006

Eberhardt et al., 2004

Daily Reflection

March 18

Racial Diversity

Richeson & Shelton, 2007

Sommers, 2015

Daily Reflection

Final Written Assignment Due

Data for Video Blog Assignment Collected


March 23

Age of Consent

Finer & Philbin, 2013

Harden & Mendle, 2011

O’Donnell et al., 2014

Age of Consent Around the World and in the US

Daily Reflection

Complete Age of Consent Thought Questions

March 25


Adolescent Development in “Reforming Juvenile Justice”

Wargo, 2006

Daily Reflection

Mental Illness & NeuroLaw

March 30

Guide to Brain Imaging

Jones et al., 2009

Daily Reflection

April 1

Neuroscience Applications in Law

Jones & Shen, 2011

Daily Reflection

April 6

Mental Illness and Violence

Lurigio & Harris, 2009

Rosenhan, 1973

Daily Reflection

April 8


Vien & Beech, 2006

“The Insanity Defense Goes Back on Trial” NY Times, 2006

Daily Reflection

Creative Application 3 Deadline

Start working on script for video

April 13

Video Presentation Prep

Daily Reflection

Script for Video Complete

April 15

Video Presentation Prep

Daily Reflection

April 20

Video Presentations

Daily Reflection

April 22

Video Presentations, Course Review, and Wrap-up

Daily Reflection

Creative Application 4 Deadline


Benton, T. R., Ross, D. F., Bradshaw, E., Thomas, W. N., & Bradshaw, G. S. (2006). Eyewitness memory is still not common sense: Comparing jurors, judges and law enforcement to eyewitness experts. Applied Cognitive Psychology20(1), 115-129.

Bornstein, B. H., & Greene, E. (2011). Jury decision making: Implications for and from psychology. Current Directions in Psychological Science20(1), 63-67.

Brainerd, C. J. (2013). Developmental Reversals in False Memory A New Look at the Reliability of Children’s Evidence. Current Directions in Psychological Science22(5), 335-341.

Brainerd, C. J., & Reyna, V. F. (2002). Fuzzy-trace theory and false memory. Current Directions in Psychological Science11(5), 164-169.

Bruck, M., & Ceci, S. (1995).  Amicus brief for the case of New Jersey v. Michaels presented by committee of concerned social scientists.  Psychology, Public Policy, & Law, 1, 272-322.

Eberhardt, J. L., Davies, P. G., Purdie-Vaughns, V. J., & Johnson, S. L. (2006). Looking deathworthy perceived stereotypicality of black defendants predicts capital-sentencing outcomes. Psychological Science17(5), 383-386.

Eberhardt, J. L., Goff, P. A., Purdie, V. J., & Davies, P. G. (2004). Seeing black: race, crime, and visual processing. Journal of personality and social psychology87(6), 876.

Fiske, S. T. (2002). What we know now about bias and intergroup conflict, the problem of the century.Current Directions in Psychological Science11(4), 123-128.

           Guthrie, C., Rachlinski, J. J., & Wistrich, A. J. (2000). Inside the judicial mind. Cornell L. Rev.86, 777.

           Hoffman, M., & Morse, S. J. (2006). The insanity defense goes back on trial. Retrieved August20, 2015 from                                               

Hans, V. P., & Reyna, V. F. (2011). To dollars from sense: Qualitative to quantitative translation in jury damage awards. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies,8(s1), 120-147.

Hope, L., Memon, A., & McGeorge, P. (2004). Understanding pretrial publicity: predecisional distortion of evidence by mock jurors. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied10(2), 111.

Jones, O. D., Buckholtz, J., Schall, J. D., & Marois, R. (2009). Brain imaging for legal thinkers: a guide for the perplexed. Stanford Technology Law Review,5, 10-09.

Jones, O. D., & Shen, F. X. (2012). Law and neuroscience in the United States. In International neurolaw (pp. 349-380). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Kahan, D. M. (2015). Laws of cognition and the cognition of law. Cognition135, 56-60.

Kahan, D. M., Hoffman, D. A., Braman, D., & Evans, D. (2012). They saw a protest: Cognitive illiberalism and the speech-conduct distinction. Stan. L. Rev.64, 851.

Kassin, S. M., & Gudjonsson, G. H. (2004). The psychology of confessions a review of the literature and issues. Psychological Science in the Public Interest5(2), 33-67.

Kassin, S. M., Tubb, V. A., Hosch, H. M., & Memon, A. (2001). On the" general acceptance" of eyewitness testimony research: A new survey of the experts. American Psychologist56(5), 405.

Loftus, E. F. (2005). Planting misinformation in the human mind: A 30-year investigation of the malleability of memory. Learning & Memory12(4), 361-366.

Lurigio, A. J., & Harris, A. J. (2009). Mental illness, violence, and risk assessment: An evidence-based review. Victims and Offenders4(4), 341-347.

Pennington, N., & Hastie, R. (1988). Explanation-based decision making: Effects of memory structure on judgment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition14(3), 521.

Richeson, J. A., & Shelton, J. N. (2007). Negotiating interracial interactions costs, consequences, and possibilities. Current Directions in Psychological Science16(6), 316-320.

Rosenhan, D. L. (1973). On being sane in insane places. Science179(4070), 250-258.

Ruva, C. L., & Guenther, C. C. (2014). From the shadows into the light: How pretrial publicity and deliberation affect mock jurors’ decisions, impressions, and memory.

Shaw, J., & Porter, S. (2015). Constructing rich false memories of committing crime. Psychological science26(3), 291-301.

Sommers, S. R. (2006). On racial diversity and group decision making: identifying multiple effects of racial composition on jury deliberations. Journal of personality and social psychology90(4), 597.

Sood, A. M. (2013). Motivated cognition in legal judgments-An analytic review. Annual Review of Law and Social Science9, 307-325.

Thompson, W. C., & Schumann, E. L. (1987). Interpretation of statistical evidence in criminal trials: The prosecutor's fallacy and the defense attorney's fallacy. Law and Human Behavior11(3), 167.

Vien, A., & Beech, A. R. (2006). Psychopathy theory, measurement, and treatment. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse7(3), 155-174.

Wargo, E. (2006). Risky business: The surprising ‘rationality’ of adolescents. Observer. 19(12). Retrieved August 20, 2015, from http://www.psychological

Waters, N. L., & Hans, V. P. (2009). A jury of one: Opinion formation, conformity, and dissent on juries.Journal of Empirical Legal Studies6(3), 513-540.

Wells, G. L., & Quinlivan, D. S. (2009). Suggestive eyewitness identification procedures and the Supreme Court's reliability test in light of eyewitness science: 30 years later. Law and Human Behavior, 33(1), 1.