Psychology and the law

Hollywood has made a fortune from our cultural obsession with crime. From Minority Report – the futuristic thriller starring Tom Cruise where police predict and stop murder before it happens – ­to the creepy psychological profiling of Netflix’s Mindhunter, our appetite for the genre seems to have no end.

Away from the big and little screens, understanding why some people commit crimes has become an exacting science. There are libraries full of research dedicated to what makes a psychopath tick. Offender profiling has become a recognised professional specialisation as has criminology, forensic psychology and behaviour intelligence.

Southern Cross University is keeping pace with the demand for specialist training that combines law and psychology, and has expanded its portfolio of law degrees with a double degree in psychological science and law, offered for the first time in 2018. 

There are numerous elective law units available that enable students to better understand the criminal mind. Psychiatry, Psychology and the Law is one of these, and was delivered this year by Professor Renata Salecl at the Southern Cross University Summer Law School.

Students were introduced to psychological and psychoanalytic theories that enable them to assess why some people internalise social prohibitions and others do not. The unit covers crime and subjective attitudes towards punishment, shame and guilt, the psychopath and the power of the psychiatric expert in the legal domain, not to mention the CSI effect, among many other fascinating topics. Students are encouraged to think critically about how psychoanalysis, psychology and psychiatry can help legal practitioners and how new studies in the domain of neuroscience contribute to legal reasoning.

Read more about studying law at Southern Cross University.