Ronald Roesch

Patricia A. Zapf

Stephen D. Hart




Why write another undergraduate text on forensic psychology? There is no shortage of them. Some very good ones were written by people we are proud to call colleagues and, in many instances, pleased to call friends. We have used their texts in our own teaching and were very satisfied with them.

So, when Wiley first approached us with the idea of developing a new text, we wondered what would be the point of the exercise. We didn’t think we could write a text that was more comprehensive than the others—indeed, the field of forensic psychology is now so broad that even the notion of a single comprehensive text of less than a thousand pages is laughable. Neither did we think that we could write a text that was better than the others. The nature and depth of our expertise in the field is in no way superior to that of other textbook authors. But what Wiley thought we could achieve was to write a textbook that reflected a particular perspective on forensic psychology: an applied and community-oriented perspective. We define forensic psychology as the application of psychological theory and research to legal questions and problems. We have a deep respect for the idea of law, believe forensic psychologists must understand the law as it relates to their areas of expertise, and judge the usefulness of research and practice according to the extent they help answer legal questions or solve legal problems.

In our view, forensic psychology should be community-oriented. It serves and operates within the legal system, itself a rather complex web of subsystems that interact within and across various levels of society (e.g., local, regional, national, international). One of our fundamental assumptions is that forensic psychology must strive not only to understand the impact of the legal system on individuals within society, but also to improve or enhance the well-being of individuals and the society in which they live.

Our primary goal in writing this text, then, was to illustrate our perspective, developed at Simon Fraser University but influenced by colleagues all over the world, on forensic psychology. To this end, we selected topics strategically. For each topic, we discuss relevant law, focusing on but not limited to U.S. law, and point out its implications for research and practice. We make frequent reference to individual cases or research studies to illustrate key points. We hope we have achieved our goal, discussing the field in a way that is different from and complementary to that done in existing texts.


In addition to this text, we have developed several supplementary resources for use by students and instructors.


Writing this text was an unexpected pleasure. This statement bears some explanation. On the one hand, it was no surprise to us that working together was a positive experience; our collaborations over many years have been both fruitful and enjoyable. But we never expected to write an undergraduate text—none of us had considered doing so until approached by our editor at Wiley, Patricia Rossi. And we never expected that writing a textbook would be gratifying in so many respects. To be sure, it was difficult to venture outside our areas of primary expertise and to write in a style so different from that required for scientific journals and books. Yet it was invigorating to immerse ourselves in new topics or think about familiar topics in new ways.

For giving us the opportunity to write this text, and for making the experience as painless as possible, we thank the professionals at Wiley. Patricia Rossi was always warm and supportive, even when deadlines were missed and extended (mostly by Steve). We received excellent feedback from a terrific Wiley production staff, including Kathleen DeChants, Katherine Glynn, and Susan Moran.

On a personal note, each of us would like to thank our families for their love, support, and patience while we worked on this project. Also, Steve and Patty would like to thank Ron for his mentorship over the years. If there does exist a strong and unique Simon Fraser University (SFU) perspective, it is thanks to Ron. Ron is the person who established and developed SFU’s Program in Law and Forensic Psychology—he had the vision, recruited faculty and students, and worked tirelessly to nurture the Program. He also helped us to establish careers of our own, and for this he has our thanks, as well as our love and respect.