History of Forensic Psychology

Updated February 18, 2022

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History of Forensic Psychology essay

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Forensic Psychology is a division of psychology. So, with the beginning of psychology, the roots of forensic psychology also began. In 1879, The Father of Psychology, Wilhelm Wundt founded his first lab in Germany. However, the first research conducted in forensic psychology was not until 1893.

James McKeen Cattell conducted his study at Columbia University and ignited the interests of other psychologists. Three years after Cattell, in 1896, psychologists began to testify in court as expert witnesses. According to Psych Central, “The earliest example of this was in Germany. In 1896, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing provided an opinion testimony in the trial of a man accused of murdering three women”.  Later, in 1901, William Stern worked with a criminologist on an experiment that showed, yet again, the level of inaccuracy in eyewitness accounts.

Due to the experiment, Stern became very interested in the psychology of testimony, and he established the first journal to explore the subject, Contributions to the Psychology of Testimony. Seven years later, Hugo Munsterberg published On the Witness Stand after a court case in which his client, whom he believed was mentally disabled, was hanged. As a result, “this was one of the events that prompted Munsterberg to publish On the Witness Stand in 1908. In it, he explained that psychology was vital in the courtroom, how suggestion could create false memories and why eyewitness testimony was often unreliable”. Then, Lewis Terman, a Stanford psychologist, began applying psychology to law enforcement in 1916. After he revised Alfred Binet’s intelligence test, the Stanford-Binet test was used to assess the intelligence of law enforcement job candidates.

Forty-three years after Wundt founded his first lab, William Marston was appointed the first professor of legal psychology at American University. Marston and other psychologists worked as one of the first psychological consultants in 1923 on the Frye U.S. case. During the forties and fifties, psychologists began testifying often in court as experts on lots of psychological topics. Twenty years later, a psychologist identified ten types of inmates, these categories were used to assign prisoners their jobs, programs, etc. Finally, in 1991, specialty guidelines were adopted for forensic psychologists by the American Psychology-Law Society. As of 2018, there are 2.64 million forensic psychologists in the workforce.

History of Forensic Psychology essay

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History of Forensic Psychology. (2020, Nov 11). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/history-of-forensic-psychology/


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