SHE Level 4
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code MHC826529
Module Leader Mairi Fleming
School School of Health and Life Sciences
Subject Psychology
  • A (September start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

Normally successful completion of Applied Psychology 2 or equivalent.

Summary of Content

The aim of this module is to consider some of the major themes in the application of psychology in criminological and legal settings. Content covers the psychology of criminal behaviour (in order to shed light on the possible causes of crime); principles of forensic practice (as a way of examining current approaches to the rehabilitation of offenders) and forensic psychology in legal settings (in order to examine the contribution of psychology to legal practice and police work).


The syllabus considers possible causes of crime, aggression and violence from a psychological viewpoint and examines specifically the range of issues presented by different offenders and offence types. Individual characteristics and lifestyle choices which might contribute to criminality are explored (such as gender, age and substance use), whilst possible socio-environmental influences (such as abuse experiences and exposure to violence) are also examined in terms of their potential influence on offending behaviours. An overview of key aspects of forensic practice is provided as lectures examine current understandings of risk assessment and management, and the rehabilitation of offenders in penal settings. The contribution of psychology in legal settings is also explored, as we consider how forensic psychology has contributed to best practice in courts and police work and enhanced knowledge of a range of legally relevant behaviours such as eyewitness testimony and false confessions.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students should be able to:1. demonstrate a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of key areas of forensic psychology 2. demonstrate an understanding of the importance of psychological theory in explaining criminal behaviour and in developing intervention strategies to prevent and reduce offending 3. have the ability to reflect upon and critically evaluate theoretical arguments and research evidence 4. demonstrate an understanding of how forensic psychology is applied to improving practice in forensic settings in the real world.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

Whilst most lectures are delivered by members of the forensic team based at GCU, the module also includes some guest lectures provided by external speakers with experience in forensic practice or research. This mix of speakers ensures that information is relevant and up to date in terms of current understandings in forensic practice. Seminars involve a combination of tutor presentation, student debate and practical exercises which provide the opportunity to apply knowledge to real life scenarios. Where possible material used in seminars is drawn from real world sources to lend authenticity to this practical work. Online support is available through GCULearn (e.g. lecture slides, seminar guide, videos, additional materials and discussion groups etc.).

Indicative Reading

Clarke, J., & Wilson, P. (Eds.). (2012). Forensic Psychology in Practice . Palgrave Macmillan. Crighton, D. A. & Towl, G.J. (2015). Forensic Psychology . Oxford, Blackwells. Davies, G. M., & Beech, A. R. (Eds.). (2012). Forensic psychology: Crime, justice, law, interventions . John Wiley & Sons. Howitt, D. (2015). Introduction to forensic and criminal psychology (5th ed.). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. Toglia, M. P., Read, J. D., Ross, D. F., & Lindsay, R. C. L. (Eds.). (2017). The handbook of eyewitness psychology: Volume I: Memory for events . Psychology Press. Walsh, D., Oxburgh, G. E., Redlich, A. D., & Myklebust, T. (Eds.). (2017). International Developments and Practices in Investigative Interviewing and Interrogation: Volume 1: Victims and Witnesses . Routledge. Please note these are introductory texts only. Much of the reading for this module will be in the form of current journal articles in the area. Supplementary reading lists will be provided by individual speakers or posted on GCULearn when available. Key Journals: Addiction, Psychology, Crime and Law; Criminal Justice and Behaviour; British Journal of Forensic Practice; British Journal of Criminology; Aggression and Violent Behaviour; Legal and Criminological Psychology.

Transferrable Skills

Through a combination of taught lectures, seminars and private study students will learn: to think critically and independently about psychological theories and empirical research in forensic psychology; evaluate research and journal articles in a systematic manner; look for the applied value of research and become aware of some of the challenges faced by forensic psychologists and researchers working in the field. In combination this will allow students to understand more about the role of forensic psychology in real world settings.

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Assessment (FT) 20.00
Independent Learning (FT) 147.00
Seminars (FT) 13.00
Lectures (FT) 20.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Course Work 01 n/a 40.00 n/a Group Presentation
Course Work 02 n/a 60.00 n/a 3000 Word Essay