The Psychology of Criminal Justice

Learn how behavioural science can improve our criminal justice system.

Course Description

This course systematically explores the effectiveness of the law and justice system from a psychological perspective. By experiencing a fictional case first hand, you will learn about the psychology of law and some of the misconceptions commonly held about criminal justice.

Course Outcomes:
  • How to identify some of the myths about how the criminal justice system works from a psychological perspective
  • The empirical evidence that can inform our understanding of criminal justice
  • How to improve how justice is administered
Course Details:


No prior knowledge about psychology or the legal system necessary, just curiosity about the criminal justice system. 
About Instructor:

Blake McKimmie - Associate Professor

Blake won a Faculty Teaching Excellence Award in 2010 and a University of Queensland Teaching Excellence Award in 2016. He currently teaches a large introductory psychology course and a second year elective about psychology and law. His research focuses on jury decision-making including the influence of gender-based stereotypes and the influence of different modes of evidence presentation. He is also interested in group membership and attitude-behaviour relations and how group membership influences thinking about the self. He is a leading instructor of the award-winning course: CRIME101x.

Mark Horswill - Associate Professor, School of Psychology

Mark is an associate professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland. He has over 100 research publications examining how we can apply scientific psychology to address real world problems, such as road accidents, medical errors, and the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. His team developed the hazard perception test used in Queensland for driver licensing, as well as a patient observation chart that has been recommended for use in all Queensland hospitals, and is being piloted nationwide. He was voted to be the top three (out of approximately 2500) lecturers at the University of Queensland in the Lecturer of the Year competition run by UniJobs in 2009.

Barbara Masser - Associate Professor, School of Psychology

Barbara is an associate professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland. She has over 40 papers and reports examining applied social psychological problems. Her work focuses on how jurors perceive victims of sexual assault, and how beliefs about gender influence people’s perceptions more broadly. She is also Australia’s leading researcher examining the psychology of blood donation. She works with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service to promote effective donor recruitment and retention strategies. She has received University and National teaching awards for her four year applied social psychology course and tutor training program.

Course Outline

A murder has been committed. In this episode, find out about criminal profiling and how this might be used in investigating the crime.
How reliable are eyewitnesses, and how can their memory of the crime be distorted? Learn about the encoding, storage and retrieval of eyewitness memories and ways these can be improved.
Photofits and line-ups are commonly used during crime investigations, and in this episode you will learn about how biases related to these can be recognized and reduced.
How reliable are confessions? Can you identify when someone is lying? In this episode the investigators question the suspect and try to work out who is the guilty party.
The investigators think they have identified the murderer. Who decides whether someone is found guilty or not guilty? Does jury selection work? What part might media coverage play in how the case trial progresses?
The jury has been selected and the trial commences. In this episode the evidence is presented and we hear about expert evidence and its reliability.
The jury need to make a decision on the case. You will learn about judicial instructions and how juries deliberate.
Did the investigators get the right person? Find out how it all ends in this final episode.


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