When Law and Psychology Meet

  • Hans F. M. Crombag
Part of the Research in Criminology book series (RESEARCH CRIM.)


Psychologists working in the field of law and psychology tend to think that there is a special relationship between the two disciplines. The law, as a system of rules and a practice of applying these rules, is a human, perhaps an all too human, enterprise. The rules of law, however, are not only invented and applied by men; they are also meant to apply to men. As a device for the control of human behavior, the law is subject to empirical constraints of a psychological nature. In order to be successful, the law must take into account the possibilities and impossibilities of human behavior. The rules can only prescribe what is humanly possible; they cannot forbid what is humanly unavoidable. As an institution it should only take measures that can successfully affect behavior. There is no moral issue here; it is merely a matter of practicalities. If the law disregards the constraints of empirical psychology, it simply becomes ineffective. Whether that would be morally wrong is at best a secondary question.


Criminal Case Attribution Theory Eyewitness Testimony Variable Ratio Schedule Fundamental Attribution Error 
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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1989

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  • Hans F. M. Crombag

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