Bad Psychology: How Forensic Psychology Left Science Behind – Review

Bad Psychology: How Forensic Psychology Left Science Behind, by Robert A. Forde. Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Date: September 2017.

For decades the psychological assessment and treatment of offenders has run on invalid and untested programmes. Robert A. Forde exposes the current ineffectiveness of forensic psychology that has for too long been maintained by individual and commercial vested interests, resulting in dangerous prisoners being released on parole, and low risk prisoners being denied it, wasting enormous amounts of public money. Challenging entrenched ideas about the field of psychology as a whole, and how it should be practised in the criminal justice system, the author shows how effective changes can be made for more just decisions, and the better rehabilitation of offenders into society, while significantly reducing the cost to the taxpayer.

This is a fearless account calling for a return to scientific evidence in the troubled field of forensic psychology.


Bad Psychology is a must and timely book for anyone interested in forensic evaluation and the (mis)-use of science. It is a wake-up call to bring science to the work of forensic examiners.

Dr. Itiel Dror, Cognitive Neuroscientist, University College London


A riveting, sharply written examination of the fault line between good science and forensic folklore.

E.J. Wagner-author of the Edgar-winning The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective’s Greatest Cases


I found this book fascinating.. Although I am not a forensic psychologist, I am a chartered educational psychologist and so many of the issues here were familiar to me. In the past few years there has been a continuing call for evidence based practice across all fields of psychology. Too often the evidence is not at all good and in some cases it seems that publication alone is enough to make a programme popular. In most cases this will not be particularly harmful. For example the use of social skills programmes in school. However, Forde makes it very clear that this is not the case in forensic psychology. In this case, the outcome for prisoners can be dire when they are recommended to go on certain programmes which do not have a solid evidence base. Parole outcomes can depend on the opinions of psychologists who base their reports on essentially subjective judgements and not on evidence.

This is a well argued and timely book. Prisons are costly and it is in all our interest to ensure that prisoners get the help they need.. This is an interesting book obviously very relevant for the profession but of general interest to us all.

Amazon reviewer.