Psychologists have contributed much to the courts’ and public’s understanding of such topics as jury processes, the fallibility of eyewitness testimony and testimonial competence. As incoming editor of Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Michael E. Lamb, PhD, wants to ensure the journal keeps publishing the highest quality research in all of those areas.
But the Cambridge University professor of social and developmental psychology knows that other arenas of psychological expertise — family law, educational policy, special education and reproductive rights, for example — can also help inform law and public policy, and he’d like to see more submissions in those areas.
“My hope is to get psychologists thinking more broadly and deeply about some of the implications of their research,” says Lamb, who takes the journal’s reins in 2013.
Lamb has other plans to broaden the journal’s focus as well. One is to increase the number of contributions by legal scholars and policy analysts who recognize the value of evidencebased evaluation in such policy areas as sentencing guidelines, educational policy and child-welfare interventions.
“People in the real world, making real-world decisions, often have a different sense of the key questions than those of us who approach it from the perspective of psychological theory,” he says. “Better research and practice result when people from the real world work alongside researchers.”
Another is to encourage international submissions, which will provide readers greater historical and cultural grounding in legal and policy matters. For example, the recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision to more carefully vet eyewitness reports may seem groundbreaking to many Americans. “But other countries reached similar conclusions 20 years ago and changed their investigative practices accordingly,” says Lamb. “There’s a lot we can learn by looking at the way other legal and policy systems have approached similar problems and issues.”
In general, Lamb wants to promote an editorial atmosphere where those in psychology, policy and law can jointly apply their expertise in the service of the public good, he adds.
“In many ways the journal has focused on how psychology can inform law and policy,” says Lamb. “I’d like to make that more of a three-way dialogue by broadening the range of topics and participants in these discussions.”
Tori DeAngelis is a writer in Syracuse, N.Y.