Is psychology good for PCB students

Away from kitchen psychology to in-depth knowledge: psychology for lawyers

As early as 2010, the then Rhineland-Palatinate Minister of Justice, Heinz Georg Bamberger, demanded that prospective judges and lawyers in Rhineland-Palatinate not only learn how to deal with the paragraphs during their studies, but also receive better psychological training in the future. Bamberger envisaged the judiciary's sensitive handling of children who had separated out; However, there is a great need for psychological knowledge and methodological knowledge in all areas of law. A few universities now offer joint additional events for psychologists and lawyers. The book "Psychologie für Juristen" (Psychology for Jurists) has now been published, the first textbook that comprehensively conveys the knowledge that is needed in legal professions. We met for a conversation with the authors Alica Mohnert and Daniel Effer-Uhe.

Ms. Mohnert, Mr. Effer-Uhe: How did you come up with the idea of ​​writing a textbook on psychology for lawyers?

Daniel Effer-Uhe

Effer-Uhe: I had my first closer contact with psychology through my civil litigation habilitation thesis, which has several points of contact with psychological questions. That then encouraged me to deal with various psychological textbooks - beyond the specific individual questions - which, of course, are designed exclusively for psychology students and assume that the reader has gone through a curriculum in statistics and experimental design. For lawyers, these are white spots on the map. While reading, I noticed one topic after another that I believe a lawyer should have heard of if he is to do his job properly. In the end, the books were full of markings and sticky notes on almost every page. I then started to design a corresponding lecture and asked Alica Mohnert whether she could imagine turning it into a joint textbook project - because until now there is no suitable introductory literature for lawyers.

Mohnert: Open doors were run into me. I am a qualified psychologist and lawyer by default. Since I have pursued this double qualification, it has always been my goal to scientifically combine these two areas. During my second law degree, I often shook my head at the, shall we say, intellectual virility with empirical evidence of human behavior that prevails in law schools and textbooks. Even current publications that touch a psychologically relevant area are full of conjectures and personal views about how people are in themselves. It is just as frustrating when content is reproduced there that has been obsolete for decades. With almost all psychological issues that lawyers encounter in their work, you know better for a long time. The findings are there - but the lawyers do not notice them. To be able to help change that is great.

How is the book structured - as a practical guide or rather as an academic textbook?

Effer-Uhe: Fortunately, these two thrusts are very compatible. When writing, we primarily envisioned a student audience who were confronted with psychology for the first time through the textbook and who would pick up the same book again some time later after starting their career if they encountered cases in which they would typical, psychological stumbling blocks that we pointed out in the book.

Alica Mohnert

Mohnert: Some chapters are more urgent for practitioners than students, that is very clear. We have consciously included these areas in order to deal with the diversity of legal work and to give student readers the opportunity early on to deal with practical issues during their studies after they have laid the academic basis through the previous chapters. However, all chapters contain whole concrete references to legal work. With this book we want to show clearly what lawyers need this content for.


Does the theoretical, academic knowledge really help lawyers or shouldn't they be trained in general knowledge of human nature?

Effer-Uhe: Half of what is described by the abbreviation “knowledge of human nature” kitchen psychological theories of everyday life and on the other hand excesses of the deep-rooted illusion that gives most people the feeling that they see through their fellow human beings. In truth, you see others through the lens of your own attitudes and beliefs and look for evidence that confirms what you already believe - and then certifies to yourself that you were right. This phenomenon is called Confirmation failure and occupies a prominent position in our book. Seen in this way, no, on the contrary, lawyers should get away from this conceptual error as quickly as possible.

Mohnert: Fortunately, psychology is not an academic dry run. Since their aim is to describe, understand and predict human behavior, it would not make sense at all to stop at theoretical hypothesis formation. A theory has to prove itself on the basis of empiricism. If the data shows that the fundamental assumption simply does not match what people are actually doing in the situation under investigation, that is an important finding on the basis of which the discovery process continues to build. What is special about the human research subject is that the test subjects can be asked very effectively to a certain extent about their considerations and decisions. This so-called qualitative aspect contributes significantly to the Motivations to make visible those behind quantitative data stand and thus enable at the Hypothesis derivation to proceed with increasing sensitivity. This gradually keeps coming better secured and realistic knowledge together, which are clearly more appropriate for legal activity than the self-confirming everyday theories just mentioned.

Many questions from the field of activity of psychology also play for the professional practice of Lawyers a role e.g. B. whether a testimony is credible. Do you therefore consider knowledge of basic psychological features to be absolutely essential for lawyers in general?

Mohnert: I do believe that this is urgently needed. Without this knowledge, lawyers keep tripping themselves and, what is worse, justice suffers in court. Lawyers definitely need to no mini psychologists become. But if it is a matter of noticing in good time whether you are currently making a classic mistake due to an error-prone heuristic and therefore threatening to make improper decisions, then it is necessary that the lawyers have the necessary knowledge so that the alarm bells ring.

Effer-Uhe: A concrete example: Today more than ever, courts regularly demand psychological expert reports at. They are even obliged to do so in many cases. But when the report is on the desk, some judges inevitably turn to the last page and follow the recommendation more or less uncritically. This means that the decision is effectively outsourced to the expert without the court having the tools to question how plausible the psychological assumptions and the choice of instruments were in the specific case in order to answer the relevant questions at all.

Mohnert: Of course, many experts deliver solid expert opinions, nonetheless there have been judicial scandals in the past, especially in the area of Credibility assessment statements made by alleged victims of sexual abuse under the age of 18. With the relevant prior knowledge on the part of the lawyers, the statements could have been recognized and intercepted in good time as suggestion-induced pseudo-memories. Well-intentioned is not good enough in the judiciary.

Beyond criminal or family law - in which other legal areas can basic psychological knowledge be helpful?

Mohnert: Can you imagine an area where psychology doesn't help? At every point in the legal system where people and their interests meet, psychology plays a role. This applies to all areas of law, in administrative law as well as in civil law.

Effer-Uhe: Due to the fact that criminology is placed in legal instead of social science faculties in Germany, which is quite unusual in international comparison, lawyers usually associate topics with a psychological touch with topics from substantive criminal law. That does not go far enough. In addition, many psychological challenges of legal activity simply arise cross-jurisdictional Everywhere there are questions that it is important to understand, such as the human perception and the memory work, which disruptive factors can divert one's own cognitive judgment or which reliable knowledge there is about successful negotiation.

You have already given lectures and block seminars on the topic in Frankfurt am Main, Leipzig and Cologne - is this well received by the students?

Effer-Uhe: The response has been excellent! We were overwhelmed by the number of participants. Even in Cologne, where we were unfortunately not allowed to issue a certificate for the lecture due to the examination regulations, we had a committed audience right up to the end, in Frankfurt and Leipzig the number of participants was three-digit. In the meantime, some of the participants have already become PhD students. Of course, I'm particularly pleased! Our assistant, who specifically supported the creation of the book, found us through the lecture.

Mohnert: In Frankfurt, where the event was classified as a focal area colloquium, we had to move from a seminar room to a lecture hall due to the number of registrations, and in Leipzig there were always some listeners who bravely sat on the steps. The evaluations were brilliant every time. My favorite comment from the field was: “I've been waiting for this event since the first semester!” I think this clearly shows that the law students actually expect this content to be part of the canon - and then not delivered. It was also very often read there that they are grateful that they have learned something that they have for their own purposes later employment will need. For me personally, it is also very satisfactory when seminar participants say at the end that we have downright shaken their assumptions about the supposed objectivity of legal proceedings. Because we can only approach the requirement of good legal practice in a satisfactory way through reliable psychological knowledge!

Ms. Mohnert, Mr. Effer-Uhe, we thank you for the interview!




Effer-Uhe / Mohnert
Psychology for lawyers
2019, 213 pages
Softcover € 29.00 including VAT
Nomos ISBN 978-3-8487-4629-3





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Keywords:Psychology, psychology for lawyers, expert reports, testimonies