Psychology plays an important part in regulating behaviour – which is most of what law does. Law needs to deal with and understand human society, remediate wrongs that have been committed, and regulate individual behaviour in society. However, to what extent this regulation should take place is predominantly the area of philosophy – so please head there to know more about how the law should regulate and to what limit should law regulate.
However, an analysis of individual and group behaviour and how regulation may affect them is more in the domain of psychology. Hence psychology is an integral part of criminology and understanding criminal behaviour – so much so that there is a field called forensic psychology. Regardless, as other types of law (other than criminal law) also attempt to regulate behaviour – they can be studied in relation to psychology. For instance, contract law aims to minimize individuals breaching contracts by punishing them; intellectual property regime aiming to foster and motivate innovations and for innovators to share the benefits with the world, so on and so forth. Unfortunately, such specific studies are not often undertaken and only touched upon in an in-depth study of such laws.
Also, the intersection of law and psychology covers biases (implicit and otherwise) which may be present in law-making and adjudication. Understanding biases are of particular focus when studying the intersection of law and psychology as one of the guiding principles of law is – no bias in adjudication.
While all these focus on how to understand the relation between law and psychology – if you want to understand psychology – please head over to these websites which will help you understand psychology in a simple manner – and enable you to analyze laws better!
A few free introductory courses are listed below – even if you don't want to go through the whole course – merely going through a relevant part that you may want to use to better understand or analyse laws would be very useful – hence do check them out.
Psychology 1,001 is an archive of a class (Introduction to Psychology) taught at UC Berkeley.
A popular YouTube channel that explains the many intersections between social psychology and social problems is run by Andy Luttrell – who also links reference materials in the descriptions. Do check it out.
For readers with basic understanding:
Pam Mueller and Janice Nadler, Social Psychology and Law (2017) – explores how more recent findings in social psychology inform debates about legal issues such as punishment, discrimination, morality, mens rea, and remorse, as well as out-of-court processes such as negotiation and dispute resolution.
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) – provides a first-hand account of the trial of a Nazi general in an Israeli Court – which in turn provides many psychological insights.
Michael Foucault, Birth of Biopolitics (1979) – in this book, Foucault notes how the state has moved away from the regulation of the body (as he had detailed in Discipline and Punish) to the regulation of life or bio. Provides many insights into the state’s conscious shift to regulate behaviour rather than to regulate the body – and hence is a seminal work to understand the importance of psychology in trying to understand regulation and law.
Craig Haney, Psychology and Legal Change (1993) – the article examines how lawyers used psychology as a tool to effect legal change in appeals and overturning precedents.
Law and Human Behavior – is a bimonthly journal published by the American Psychological Association covering mainly the intersection between criminal law and psychology.
Law and Social Inquiry – while this journal has a wide range of articles examining the intersection between law and social science – be on the lookout for articles to do with psychology, as is frequently published.
Note from the Editors:
Dear reader, as you may have observed – the literature produced predominantly is in the context of the global north, hence there is a dearth of articles or books examining the relationship between psychology and human behaviour in the global south (which includes India).
We sincerely hope that as a reader, you may take up the initiative to write on such topics in the context of the global south (and hopefully publish with us!). In that spirit, we wish happy reading!
Also, if you feel we missed out on any literature/resource or have a recommendation that we can add to this section, please do let us know. Even if you do not have any recommendations, any feedback is much appreciated. Thank you!