The scientific Credibility of Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychology, as a forensic discipline, can be located within a broader discourse of forensic science. However, Forensic Psychology is seen as a poor relation when compared with various forensic specialisms like forensic odontology, forensic pathology etc.

Psychology, in general, is perceived as soft or pseudo science, particularly by people not belonging to the discipline. It is difficult to understand the prevalence of this misunderstanding based on the practice of psychology.

Often presented as a topic within forensic psychology, criminal profiling has a host of examples proving them to be inaccurate, with the Washington sniper case being the most obvious one. While the profiles indicated a white man working alone was to be held responsible, Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammed, two black men, were arrested in the actual event and sentenced to life in prison for the killing.

Accuracy and precision is cited as a cornerstone of professional practice by The American Academy of Forensic Sciences, making perfect sense for a society that is dedicated to the application of science to the law.

A constructive approach of seeking out a balanced view when evaluating or defending the scientific credibility of forensic psychology is recommended for students of forensic psychology.

With more than one approaches to criminal profiling, the theoretical principle of each approach is markedly different. However, criminal profiling appears to represent a very clear case in point. It is thus equally possible to point to objective and testable statistical procedures being employed as it to point to certain explanatory frameworks as subjective and untestable.

An effective learning strategy that must be employed within the course of forensic psychology is the ability to compare and contrast a range of approaches, thereby evaluating their respective weaknesses and strengths.