Forensic psychology and human aggression

18. May. 2016 • Psychologické vedy

Forensic psychology and human aggression

Psychology is the science of human behavior. It deals with mental processes (phenomena), the conscious as well as the unconscious mind and its psychological characteristics. It focuses on understanding mental phenomena and using knowledge in various areas of practice. Forensic psychology is a sub discipline of psychology that applies to issues relating to law and the legal system. Forensic psychology integrates psychological disciplines, particularly personality psychology, psychopathology, clinical and social psychology with legal disciplines, criminology and sociology.

Forensic psychology is considered to be an applied psychological science. It enriches psychological disciplines with a number of new findings, especially on human behavior in stressful, borderline situations in confrontation with social and legal norms. It provides psychological services to the judicial and legislative systems, compiles specialized knowledge of legal matters affecting the practice of psychology and conducts research on legal issues involving psychological processes.  

One of the pioneers of Slovak clinical and forensic psychology, prof. Dobrotka, views the evaluation of the failure of the subjective human factor in social interaction with regard to its social and criminal law effects to be the main component of forensic psychology in practice.

According to prof. Heretik, forensic psychology deals with psychology of the individual participants in the legal process, the psychological and socio-psychological particularities of the various stages of its implementation (psychology of investigation, trial, imprisonment) and the psychological problems of different branches of law. Another important aspect of forensic psychology is the focus on the human personality in the complex interaction with the world including the adaption of social and legal norms.  

Definitions of forensic psychology show that forensic psychology integrates two scientific systems - psychology and law. Both of these scientific disciplines combine when it comes to cognition. An adequate classification of behavior (legal classification of the act) must be based on its immediate causes (motivation), the awareness of its intentions (guiltiness) and so on. To a large extent, the second focal point of the two disciplines is their objective - modification of deviant behavior (protecting the society).  In these areas, the language of these disciplines facilitates their mutual influence and interaction.

The objective of the forensic-psychological science of aggression is the sequence analysis of the motivation of crime. Diagnostics is the output for clinical practice. Outputs for social practice are: arms control, aggression management (coping with negative emotions, conflict, frustration, prejudices).

The science of aggression is considered to be an interdisciplinary science. Aggression is a personality disposition. It is our nature. Aggressors are not “the others”, every one of us is an aggressor. We only differ in the intensity and channeling of our aggression. Also, social background always plays a role as well. It's a challenge for us to talk about our own aggression. Hostility is the attitude of a personality.

Aggression is a unit of behavior. Signs of aggression can be: verbal or physical, direct or indirect, passive or active. Even when we don't stand up for a victim of an offender, it is considered aggression. Physical, active and direct aggression is at the top of the pyramid. The affect of a personality is an emotional state (eg. murders are usually committed in a strong affect).

Prof. PhDr. Anton Heretik, PhD.Prof. PhDr. Anton Heretik, PhD., from the Department of Psychology of the Comenius University in Bratislava is a notable clinical and forensic psychologist, psychotherapist and psychiatrist who deals with forensic psychology, who has published hundreds of scientific studies. In 1993, he wrote the first Czechoslovak textbook on forensic psychology, Fundamentals of forensic psychology, which has already come out in its 3rd edition as Forensic psychology for psychologists, lawyers, doctors and other helping professions. He is particularly proud of his university textbook called Clinical psychology, which he wrote in 2007 together with his son and colleague In March 2015, he published another book named Evil - Memories of a forensic expert. He is a co-founder of the League for mental health and participated in the creation of an STV show - Biggest criminal cases of Slovakia. For years, he has also been involved in research. As a member of a group of authors, he took part in the preparation of three epidemiological studies - monographs. 

In January 2016, Prof. PhDr. Anton Heretik, PhD., was a guest at the Science in the CENTER, where he spoke on the topic of Forensic psychology and human aggression. A report from this event can be found on the website of Scientific kaleidoscope.


Compiled by: Marta Bartošovičová, NCP VaT pri CVTI SR

Photo: NCP VaT pri CVTI SR

Ilustrational photo:

Published by: BK

Translated by: Dorota Jagnešáková

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