Approaches between psychology and law

Approaches between psychology and law

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Despite what is stated in the article in which the 8 differences between psychology and law, the reality is that from the beginning they have tried to make mutual approaches between both disciplines.

Despite his many divergent views, they are two disciplines doomed to be understood for the sake of science and justice. Proof of this is that the collaboration between jurists and psychologists around the world is getting closer and closer.

Approaches between psychology and law

The question we ask ourselves is: do two really different sciences really house such close views?

Divergences between psychology and law that, basically, are not so much

Carson (1988), analyzes the following divergences formulated by Aubert (1963):

Scientists, like psychologists, seek to predict future behavior. However, lawyers are interested in past conduct. The objection raised is that, although it seems a clear distinction, in some cases it is not so clear.

So, lawyers also have to try to predict judicial conduct and the ability to contribute facts, among other issues.

Another divergent aspect is that scientists seek to generalize, cover as many people as possible from an affirmation.

Conversely, attorneys focus exclusively on their clients and their individuality rather than common characteristics.

Again, although true in regard to the professional practice of jurists in the courtrooms, In certain aspects, lawyers make generalizations based on their professional practice. Therefore, they are not so far from psychologists.

Divergences in the superficial, convergences in the deep

Another of the differences raised by Aubert (1963) is that scientists perceive and work with degree issues, such as probability, mental disorder, risk, etc., while lawyers, on the other hand, dichotomize (Yes vs. no, guilty vs. innocent, etc.).

In this sense, Carson (1988) points out that lawyers, in court, they should try to label their clients as holders or not of a certain legal category to obtain a particular conclusion and compare the facts of their clients with pre-existing categories and concepts.

However, outside the courtroom, lawyers can recognize the wide spread and variety of categories, as well as existing overlapping concepts. Precisely, just like psychologists.

On the other hand, scientists test hypotheses based on detailed criteria and examined to establish a causality relationship between two phenomena.

Nevertheless, lawyers have their own rules of causation and do not need to prove their conclusions. Scientists try to make descriptive reports but again, outside the courtroom, the lawyer may also be interested in such descriptive reports in order to avoid events such as breach of contract or risk assessment.

Obvious approaches between psychology and law

On the other hand, psychology and law share their commitment to empirical and quantification.

In fact, the decision on a court case must be based on evidence and facts. So that the observable can lead to clarify the unobservable and, from that, people who did not witness the facts will make inferences and consequently make decisions.

This is what psychology does, Both disciplines rely on the empirical to build their hypotheses.Without a doubt, this point of convergence is fundamental.

For his part, Garrido (1994) considers that it is not true that the only existing relationship between psychology and law is its common material object, behavior. Your contact is more intimate:

  • The two disciplines have the same conception of human nature and its behavior
  • Although each discipline has its mission, the two share a unique conception of the processes that govern human behavior, being the difference that the law supposes or intuits and psychology places them at their point of analysis
  • The positive law starts from a conception of human nature and a forecast of human behavior and legislates accordingly.
  • The true foundation of the relationships between psychology and law It is that many of the positive laws have their raison d'être, their theoretical justification in the assumptions of how human nature works.


Analyzes such as those carried out above, show that the differences established between psychology and the law are not as resounding as they could be understood based on a first reading, it being possible that a more detailed examination will show that the lines that mark the differences between both fields are not as defined as one might think.

All of the above seems to point towards a possible overcoming of the barriers that separate both disciplines, in favor of accentuating the current and potential elements in common that exist between psychology and law.


Coleman, J.C., Butcher, J.N. and Carson, R.C. (1988). Psychology of abnormality and modern life. Mexico: Threshing.

García, E., Lacalle, J. & Pérez-Marqués, A. (2006). Legal-forensic psychology and oral trials in criminal matters: perspectives, risks and challenges in the case of present-day Mexico, general approaches. Jus Semper Loquitur, 50, 23-32.

Garrido, E. (1994). Relations between psychology and the law. In Sobral, J., Arce, R. & Prieto, A. Manual of Legal Psychology. Mexico: Paidós.

Quintero, L.A. M., & López, E. G. (2010). Legal Psychology: work and development. Diversitas: Perspectives in psychology6(2), 237-256.