Course content

Legal negotiation, mediation, conflict resolution, judging, diplomacy, counseling, client interviewing, law making, lobbying etc. – whatever legal profession you may end up holding it will most likely involve other people. This means that your success as a legal advisor etc. to a great extend depends on your understanding of yourself and of other people – how they think, make decisions, behave and how you interact, i.e. your understanding of psychology.

The intersection between law and psychology has a long tradition in common law countries, especially within the field of criminal law where topics such as interrogation, children as witnesses, the issue of leading questions and the trial and election of juries have been addressed. However, especially during the last ten years the findings within cognitive neuroscience (and behavioral economics) have pointed out other aspects of psychology relevant for the legal profession.

Based primarily of the findings within cognitive psychology and social psychology this course will look into psychological issues relevant not only for criminal lawyers but for all legal professionals. Topics such as the psychology of obedience and dishonesty, prejudice, how memory works and how e.g. false memories can be created, stereotyping and discrimination, the irrationality of human beings (vs “bonus pater” view), how we as lawyers may be biased and hold illusions and how we can know if a person lies are among the topics to be covered. Furthermore, we will look into practical counseling skills including listening skills and the emotional side of dealing with clients.

The course covers the following (psychological) issues:

  • Introduction to the history and scientific methods of psychology
  • Cognitive psychology issues relevant for legal advisors: Decision-making (e.g. heuristics, biases, framing); Memory (e.g. conditioning, priming, habits, episodic and semantic memory); Emotion and social cognition (e.g. mirror neurons, emotional control, stress); Attention and perception.
  • Social psychology issues relevant for legal advisors: Authorities and group pressure; Groups/teams and social competition; Stereotypes, cultural and racial biases; Justice and fairness, Attitudes and attribution theory.
  • Client relation skills: Counselling models and skills.
Learning outcome
  • To obtain basic knowledge of the history and research methods of psychology and be able to discuss, evaluate and relate this to the legal tradition/field.
  • To obtain psychological knowledge particularly within the field of cognitive psychology and social psychology.
  • To be able to analyze, apply and critically discuss the implication of the psychological findings/sciences in relation to the legal profession and specific laws and regulations.
  • Furthermore, the students must be able to analyze and critically apply the psychological insights to themselves and their own situation (future legal career).

The course will consist of lectures, group work, presentation of syllabus texts by the students
and client counselling role-plays. Furthermore, the students must prepare a 3-5 pages written assignment discussing a particular legal-psychological issue.


Franzoi, Stephen, L. (2012). “Social Psychology “(6th ed.). BVT Publishing. (Chp. 4-8)


Rock, D. (2009). Your Brain at Work – Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus, and working smarter. Harper Business. (Chp 1)

Danziger, K. (1997). Naming the Mind. SAGE Publ. London. (pp. 1-15)

Passer, M.W., Smith, R.E. (2007).  Psychology – The Science of Mind and Behavior (3rd ed.). McGraw Hill. (Chp. 1)

Robbennolt, J, Sternlight, J. R. (2008). “Good Lawyers Should be Good Psychologists: Insights for Interviewing and Counseling Clients”. University of Illinois College of Law, Law and Economics Working Papers, no. 101, pp. 434-548.

Rachlinsky, J.J.: “Misunderstanding Ability, Misallocating Responsibility”. (2002-2003). 68 Brooklyn Law Review, pp. 1055-1091.

Aschcraft, M. H. & Radvansky, G. A.:”Cognition” (5ed). (2013). Pearson New International Edition, Essex: Prentice Hall. (pp. 84-90; pp. 488-498).

Beilock, S. L., & Carr, T. H.: “When high-powered people fail: working memory and “choking” under pressure” in math”. (2005). Psychological Science, 16, pp.101-105.

Salazar, A.: “Libertarian Paternalism and the Danger of Nudging Consumers”. (2011). Osgoode Hall Law School of York University. Selected Works. Available at: http//

Kahneman, D.: “Maps of Bounded Rationality: Psychology for Behavioral Economics” (2003). The American Economic Review, 93(5), pp. 1449-1475.

Purves, D., Cabeza, R., Huttel, S. A., LaBar, K. S., Platt, M. L., & Woldorff, M. G.: “Principles of Cognitive Neuroscience” (2. Udg). (2013). Sunderland. (Chp. 10-11, 13, 14 (pensum: pp 374-392+319-328+352-353+337-343+429-431+458-459+467-470+479-483)).

Mazar, N., Amir, O., Ariely, D. (2008). The Dishonesty of Honest People: A Theory of Self-Concept Maintenance. Journal of Marketing Research (Vol. XLV, December 2008), pp. 633-644.

Lightstone, K., Francis, R., Kocum, L (2011). University Faculty Style of Dress and Student’s Perception of Instructor Credibility. International Journal of Business and Social Science, pp.15-22.

Ross, L., Shestowsky, D. (2003). Contemporary Psychology’s Challenges to Legal Theory and Practice. Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 97, No. 3, pp. 1081-1114.

Kassin, S. M., Goldstein, C. C., Savitsky, K. (2003).Behavioral Confirmation in the Interrogation Room: On the Dangers of Presuming Guilt”. Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 27, No. 2, April 2003.

Riskin, L.L.: “The Contemplative Lawyer: On the Potential Contribution of Mindfulness Meditation to Law Students, Lawyers, and Their Clients”. 7 Harv. Negotiation L. Rev. 1 (2002), available at

Vilardo, L. J. (2001). Communicating with clients. Litigation, Vol. 27, No.3, pp.45-48. American Bar Association.

Shaffer, T. L., Elkins, J. R. (2005). Legal Interviewing and Counseling in a Nutshell” (4th ed.). Thomson – West. (Chp. 11).

Eysenck, M.W. (2001).  Psychology – A Student’s Handbook. Psychology Press. (Chp. 11-13 (pensum: pp.264-289+291-313+315-343))

Cochran, R.F., Brandeis, L.D., DiPippa, J.M.A., Bowen, W.H., Peters, M.M. (2014). The Counselor-at-Law: A Collaborative Approach to Client Interviewing and Counseling (3rd ed.). LexisNexis. (Chp. 3 and 7(§7-1 til §7-3))

• Develop the ability to assess and apply social sciences/psychological issues in the legal
• Develop the ability to critically reflect on the law as a measure of regulating behavior comparing it to other possible measures and especially to be able to predict when the law might fall short of regulating behavior, irrespective of sanctions.
• To critically reflect on the role of the lawyer in relation to clients, judges, etc.

Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
Oral exam based on synopsis, 20 minutes.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Oral exam based on the presentation and demonstration of understanding of the syllabus: presentation and discussion of the 3-5 pages written assignment and presentation and discussion of a specific syllabus-text and related topics.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • English
  • 412,5