Psychology and law: a behavioural or a social science?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The study of law and legal contexts, like any other field of research and analysis, is prone to what might be called 'territoriality'. Disciplines and schools of thought, between and within disciplines, compete to demonstrate that their own offerings constitute the only 'legitimate' or valid approach to the genuine understanding of law and legal process. This need not be the case. The justification of a particular perspective on legal contexts need not necessarily entail the denial of legitimacy of alternative frameworks for the analysis of law. It should be accepted that our appreciation of legal contexts in enriched by the proliferation of approaches to the subject, from varied disciplines and a multiplicity of conceptual and methodological paradigms. However, in the context of comparing, in our case, psychological with social scientific, or sociological, stances on the study of legal contexts, this tends not to be the case. There is indeed a high degree of territoriality at work. Thus psychologists might deride the failure of sociology to satisfy the standards of the 'scientific paradigm' in its varied methodologies; sociologists, in turn, may attack psychology for 'naivety' in aspiring to apply the strictures of the natural sciences to human behaviour or for failing to see the wood (society and social processes) for the trees (human individuals).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of psychology in legal contexts
EditorsDavid Carson, Ray Bull
Place of PublicationChichester
ISBN (Print)9780471498742
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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