IPT Book Reviews

Title: Psychology and the Legal System, Third Edition
Authors: Lawrence S. Wrightsman, Michael T. Nietzel, and William H. Fortune
Publisher: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co. 1994

$59.75 (c)

Title: Psychology and Law, Second Edition
Authors: Curt R. Bartol and Anne M. Bartol
Publisher: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co. 1994

$53.50 (c)

Brooks/Cole Publishing Co.
511 Forest Lodge Road
Pacific Grove, CA 93950-5098
(800) 354-9706

Both of these books are intended to serve as text books for students in psychology and law classes. The first, Psychology and the Legal System by Wrightsman, Nietzel, and Fortune, is the most frequently assigned textbook for undergraduate psychology and law courses. The third edition has an attorney as a new third author in an attempt to strengthen the treatment of mental health law. It has a new chapter on competence in the legal system and adds new material in several other areas as well. The book uses four problems, or dilemmas, to focus its presentation of material: the rights of individuals versus the common good, treating everybody equally versus allowing for discretion according to the circumstances, aiming at discovering truth versus resolving conflicts, and, science versus the law as a source of decisions. Each chapter has an outline at the beginning and a concise summary at the end. The material is sprightly and well-written and should readily maintain the interest of students as well as providing accurate and well-supported information.

The second book, Psychology and Law by Bartol and Bartol is in the second edition and also has new material. It aims at a close tie between research and the application of the science of psychology in the legal arena. However, the more recent research in many areas is not included and some of the statements made on the basis of earlier research are no longer as accurate as they may have been at one time. The presentation of the relationship between law and the science of psychology is standard and is a simplified description of both science and the law. It would have value for students who are at the very beginning of their college career but could lack interest for students somewhat more advanced.

Both books, however, could serve well as introductions to the interaction between law and psychology for those who are involved in litigation where psychological factors are involved. Lay persons may find the Bartol and Bartol book a more useful compendium while professionals would do better with Wrightsman et al. Attorneys, including judges, who are facing exposure to significant interaction with the science of psychology could benefit from their treatment of the fundamental issues and the discussion throughout the book relating to the value of science and law in making decisions.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies.

Order first book: Hardcover

Order second book: Hardcover

Visit our Bookstore

  [Back to Volume 7, Number 4]

Copyright 1989-2014 by the Institute for Psychological Therapies.
This website last revised on April 15, 2014.
Found a non-working link?  Please notify the Webmaster.