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Introduction to Forensic Psychology

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This course - illustrated with examples of crime in the real world - will provide an overview of some of the most important issues in forensic psychology. Why do people become criminal? Is it their genes or their upbringing? Why do we punish criminals? We will consider ongoing research into neuroimaging of criminals, offender profiling, serial crime, and eyewitness testimony.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment


Content of Course

1. Early History of Forensic Psychology: demonology; witchcraft; phrenology; Lombrosian theory.

2. Twentieth Century Forensic Psychology: Hooton; Sheldon; Eysenck; modern neuroimaging studies of offenders.

3. Psycholegal Issues: eyewitness behaviour; police interviews; jury decision making.

4. Offender Profiling and Serial Crime: development and success of offender profiling; nature of serial crime and serial criminals.

5. Free Will and Responsibility for Crime: Do people really freely choose a life of crime? Consideration of psychological syndromes that seem to inhibit our free will.

6. Punishing Criminals: What is the purpose of punishment? Does it work? How can psychological studies tell inform the penal system?

Teaching method(s)

Combination of lecture and class activities / discussion.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Provide an overview of the development of Forensic Psychology and the role of the scientific method in this;

  • Explain some of the key issues in psychological research as they apply to crime;

  • Demonstrate an understanding of how psychologists investigate psycho-legal issues;

  • Critically discuss some of the most important issues in Forensic Psychology.


Core Readings


There are no essential readings for the course but the recommended titles below may be of interest in following up themes or topics.


  • Harrower, J., 2006. Applying Psychology to Crime. London: Hodder Arnold.

  • Hibbert, C., 2003. The Roots of Evil: A Social History of Crime and Punishment. Stroud: Sutton Publishing Ltd.

  • Hollin, C.R., 2006. Psychology and Crime. London: Routledge.

  • Soothill, K., Peelo, M., & Taylor, C., 2002. Making Sense of Criminology. Cambridge: Polity Press.

  • Wilson, J.Q. and Herrnstein, R.J., 1985. Crime and Human Nature. New York: Touchstone.

Class Handouts

Lecture slides / handouts will be provided for each class.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.