Forensic Cognition: Theory, Research and Practice - PSYC8470

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Spring Term 7 20 (10) Caoilte O Ciardha checkmark-circle


This module asks what sort of thinking occurs in individuals who sexually molest children, rape adults, or commit acts of violence. Do they think their actions are legitimate in some instances or do they know their actions are wrong but choose to offend nonetheless? Cognition, or thinking, is recognised as being a key component underlying the way people think and behave. Understanding how research on cognition and social cognition can be applied to crime allows researchers and practitioners to shed light on offenders' antisocial behaviours. In this strongly research-based course, you will learn about some of the influential theories that have been developed to help explain offenders’ antisocial actions, the latest cutting-edge research designed to help understand why men offend, and widely used treatment programmes designed to alter cognitive characteristics associated with offending in order to reduce recidivism. This course will not be limited to offenders’ cognition, however. You will also learn about fascinating social-cognitive phenomena associated with child and adult eyewitness testimony, and how memory can play havoc with the criminal justice system.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 170
Total study hours: 200


Compulsory to : FOPSY:MSC-T Forensic Psychology

Method of assessment

Research Proposal 3,000 words 100%

Reassessment methods: Like-for-Like

Indicative reading

Reading List (Indicative list, current at time of publication. Reading lists will be published annually)

Gannon, T.A., Ward, T, Beech, A.R., & Fisher, D. (2007). Aggressive offenders' cognition: Theory,

research and practice. Chichester, UK: Wiley.

Ó Ciardha, C., & Ward, T. (2013). Theories of Cognitive Distortions in Sexual Offending: What the Current Research Tells Us. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 14(1), 5-21. doi:10.1177/1524838012467856

Crick, N. and Dodge, K. (1994). A review and reformulation of social information-processing mechanisms in children's social adjustment. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 74-101.

Wells, G. L., Memon, A., & Penrod, S. D. (2006). Eyewitness evidence: Improving its probative value. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 7, 45-75.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

8.1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of forensic-related cognition for a wide range of offender and non-offender groups.

8.2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of socio-cognitive factors that may be relevant at different stages in the criminal justice process.

8.3. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the usefulness and applicability of various research methodologies used to investigate forensic-related cognition.

8.4. Critically evaluate forensic-related cognitive research in the laboratory, field settings, and in court.

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

9.1. Critically reason in relation to theory, research, and clinical practice.

9.2. Demonstrate advanced written and oral skills for presenting research-informed arguments.

9.3. Demonstrate a broad understanding of the principles of sound research design.

9.4. Show expertise in design, statistical analysis and evaluation of research


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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