Pragmatic psychology

Daniel Fishman, Jane Goodman-Delahunty

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter


Definition'Pragmatic psychology' (Fishman 1999, 2003, 2004) is a knowledge model and research method in forensic and all other areas of applied psychology. Epistemologically, pragmatic psychology is grounded within the philosophical pragmatism of William James and John Dewey, together with its postmodern reworking by thinkers like Stephen Toulmin, Richard Bernstein, Donald Polkinghorne and Richard Rorty. It integrates selective elements from the two dialectically opposed epistemological paradigms that have dominated forensic psychology: positivism and hermeneutics.In research method, pragmatic psychology proposes the creation of peer-reviewed databases of systematic, rigorous, solution-focused case studies that draw on quantitative and qualitative data. As a result, pragmatic psychology focuses on contextualized knowledge about particular individuals, groups, organizations and communities in specific situations, sensitive to the complexities and ambiguities of the real world. By applying rigorous standards to a case study's design, method, and quantitative and qualitative data, pragmatic psychology yields a new type of scientifically legitimate empirical evidence upon which to base forensic psychology's practice and theorizing. (See Elliott, Fischer and Rennie 1999 and Patton 2002 for examples of the development of rigorous standards in qualitative research.)The application of psychological knowledge to the legal system transcends national boundaries, but conventions regarding nomenclature vary in different communities, necessitating a cautionary note about terminology. In the USA, the application of experimental psychology to the law is commonly referred to as 'legal psychology', whereas the term 'forensic psychology' is reserved for clinical practice within the legal system (Brigham 1999) and also encompasses what in Australia is more squarely within theprovince of forensic psychiatry, i.e. mental illness and disorder related to the law.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCambridge handbook of forensic psychology
EditorsJ. Brown, E. Campbell
Place of PublicationCambridge, United Kingdom
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9780521701815
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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