The Role of Psychological Testing in Forensic Assessment

Heilburn, Kirk
June 1992
Law & Human Behavior (Springer Science & Business Media B.V.);Jun1992, Vol. 16 Issue 3, p257
Academic Journal
Despite the apparent widespread use of psychological tests in evaluations performed by psychologists to assist legal decision makers, there has been little critical but balanced examination of the appropriate parameters for the forensic use of such tests. The following discussion examines the nature of legal decision making, and concludes that the primary legal criterion for the admissibility of psychological testing is relevance to the immediate legal issue or to some underlying psychological construct. Assuming that accuracy is a more consistent concern for psychologists performing such evaluations, the criticisms of various commentators are discussed. Some criticisms appear appropriate and are incorporated into a set of proposed guidelines for the use of psychological tests in forensic contexts. Other criticisms appear misplaced, however, and the call for a whole sale ban on psychological testing in the forensic context is rejected.


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