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Lawyers' perception of forensic psychologists: A partial replication study

23 July 2006


In review of the existing literature, a discrepancy exists between psychologists providing expert testimony while adhering to their ethical and professional guidelines and the adversarial nature of the legal system seeking diligent representation of their clients. The literature suggests that this discrepancy, often a product of miscommunication, is at the heart of the controversy of expert testimony. Despite the large number of articles written about the conflict present between these two systems, relatively few studies have been conducted in an effort to bridge the gap between psychologists who provide expert testimony and the expectations of the lawyers who retain them. In this study the definition and role of the expert witness was reviewed. The two opposing systems of the psychologist providing expert testimony and the lawyers representing the adversarial nature of the legal system were compared and a survey of lawyers' perceptions of psychologists who do forensic work was conducted. Findings demonstrate that lawyers generally rated the potential value, or actual contribution, of psychological testimony as moderate. Their rating of psychologists actual knowledge was significantly lower than their expectations. However, they rated the conduct and adherence of psychologists to the rules of expert testimony as satisfactory.


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