MSc in Psychology - Psychology and Law
About This Masters Degree
The specialisation in Psychology and Law is unique for the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.While introductory courses on the topic are offered at other Dutch universities, Maastricht University offers a complete master’s programme. Cognitive and - to a lesser extent - clinical psychology form the essentials of this specialisation. Questions that are typical for Psychology and Law are, for example: ‘How reliable are eyewitness testimonies?’ or ‘Do serious criminals have a brain dysfunction making them permanently dangerous to society?’ Psychologists with a background in Psychology and Law ask questions that have direct relevance to the legal arena and conduct research to address these questions.
The specialisation in Psychology and Law is underpinned by two important elements: research and testing. The specialisation consists of five courses. ‘Eyewitnesses and Victims’ provides you with insight into the psychology of eyewitnesses and victims, while ‘Perpetrators and Defendants’ exposes you to different types of offending behaviour and offenders, and you also learn to analyse these in the context of legal questions. In ‘Experts and their Decisions’, the role that experts play in judicial decision-making and the validity of expert opinions are important subjects. ”Forensic Neuropsychology” familiarizes you with neuropsychological disorders and assessment. “Public Policy in Legal Psychology” focusses on the basics of writing public policy in legal psychology.
The literature for these courses consists of individual research papers taken from experimental, applied, and forensic psychiatric journals. During the second semester, you complete a research internship and write your thesis.
Research in the Psychology and Law domain covers a broad range of issues. Topics include, for example, lie detection, eyewitness testimonies, interrogation techniques, vulnerable suspects, false confessions, forensic psychopathology, violence risk assessment, offender treatment, and malingering. As a master’s student, you have the opportunity to participate in the ongoing research on these topics conducted by the department’s scientific staff.
Internships vary from conducting research in the area of eyewitness identifications and false confessions in the lab to assessing the effectiveness of treatments in a TBS clinic. It’s important to note that, although clinical forensic psychology is one of the topics of this master’s, it is not the main focus.
Because of the wide range of Psychology and Law themes, psychologists with a background in
Psychology and Law are well equipped to work in diverse areas such as police investigation, juvenile
offender institutions, child protection services, and high security forensic facilities. With its heavy emphasis on research, this track offers good training to students who intend to become
researchers in the Psychology and Law field.
Is this programme right for me?
This specialisation familiarises you with typical themes in the Psychology and Law domain. For example, you learn how to analyse the reliability of eyewitness testimonies. In doing so, you study memory from various perspectives. Testing is another issue that you address. Which tests can you use to detect malingerers or predict the risk of recidivism? Although the theoretical part of the specialisation in Psychology and Law is given in English, you should be aware that many examples and illustrations are drawn from the Dutch judicial system, for example, the TBS system (mandatory psychiatric treatment on behalf of the state).
In addition, legal decisions are made by judges rather than juries. The course discusses important cases that have made an impact on the Dutch Psychology and Law field. In the practical part of this specialisation, you visit Dutch court hearings and forensic settings. Students who aim for a career in a clinical forensic setting are advised to apply for the two-year forensic psychology master programme.