Psychological evidence at the dawn of the law's scientific age

Annu Rev Psychol. 2005;56:631-59. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070316.


The Supreme Court's 1993 decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., holding that the admissibility of scientific evidence depends on its scientific merit, has made American law receptive to valid science to an unprecedented degree. We review the implications for psychology of the law's taking science seriously. We consider the law before Daubert, and the ways that Daubert as well as modifications to the Federal Rules of Evidence have affected the admissibility of expert testimony. We describe the ramifications of these changes for psychology used as authority to create a general legal rule, as evidence to determine a specific fact, and as framework to provide context. Finally, future prospects for improving psychological testimony are offered: Court-appointed experts will increase the psychological sophistication of judges and juries, and evidence-based practices on the part of psychologists will increase the sophistication of the expert testimony that they proffer in court.

Publication types

  • Legal Case

MeSH terms

  • Expert Testimony / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Jurisprudence
  • Psychology / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States