Category Archives: Investigations

Quick links for the last week

New issues:

  • Law and Human Behavior 34(5) http://is.gd/fhQvR Recidivism risk, psychopathy, informants, quality of forensic examiners and more
  • Criminal Justice Matters 81(1) Articles on pre-crime, masculinity & violence, probation, secure envts & more http://is.gd/fbBVC
  • Psychology, Crime & Law 16(8) http://is.gd/fhQqp Articles on execution, prisoners, rape myths, child abuse, eyewitness testimony

New research articles:

  • Murder–suicide: A reaction to interpersonal crises. Forensic Science International 202(1-3) http://is.gd/fhQjP
  • The role of perpetrator similarity in reactions toward innocent victims Eur J Soc Psy 40(6) http://is.gd/fhPZ3 Depressing.
  • Detecting concealed information w/ reaction times: Validity & comparison w/ polygraph App Cog Psych 24(7) http://is.gd/fhPMW
  • Eliciting cues to children’s deception via strategic disclosure of evidence App Cog Psych 24(7) http://is.gd/fhPIS
  • Can fabricated evidence induce false eyewitness testimony? App Cog Psych 24(7) http://is.gd/fhPDd Free access
  • In press, B J Soc Psy Cues to deception in context.http://is.gd/fhPcY Apparently ‘context’ = ‘Jeremy Kyle Show’. Can’t wait for the paper!
  • Narrative & abductive processes in criminal profiling http://is.gd/fgjH3 Free if u register for Sage trial http://is.gd/eUubM
  • Children’s contact with incarcerated parents: Research findings & recommendations American Psych 65(6) http://is.gd/fd45s
  • Comparing victim attributions & outcomes for workplace aggression & sexual harassment in J App Psych 95(5) http://is.gd/fd3Vb
  • Correctional Psychologist Burnout, Job Satisfaction, and Life Satisfaction. In Psych Services 7(3) http://is.gd/fbBKC
  • It’s okay to shoot a character. http://tinyurl.com/32u3w9v Paper on morals in video games
  • Perceptions about memory reliability and honesty for children of 3 to 18 years old – http://ht.ly/2z8O1

And some other links of interest:

Quick links for the last couple of weeks

Oh dear, the automatic Twitter updates feature needs attention. Sigh. Meanwhile, here’s what I’ve been tweeting about:

The most important tweet of the last two weeks was notification that Sage Pubs are offering FREE online access to their entire collection until October 15, 2010. Sage do this every year or so and it’s a great time to stock up new and classic research. Register here: http://is.gd/eUubM

Once you’ve done that, check out new issues of the following Sage journals:

Also out, the first September issue of JUSTINFO, published by NCJRS. Funding opps, new publications, courses, resources etc http://www.ncjrs.gov/justinfo/sep0110.html

In other non-forensic journals, the following articles caught my eye:

  • Meta-analytic comparison of 9 violence risk assessment tools. Psychological Bulletin 136(5):740-767 http://is.gd/f6J9Q
  • Construct-driven development of video-based situational judgment test for police integrity http://is.gd/f6J3h
  • Unconfirmed loss of husband has specific negative mental health consequences vs suffering a confirmed loss http://is.gd/f6IIF
  • Social ties & short-term self-reported delinquent behaviour of personality disordered forensic outpatients http://ht.ly/2z9z8
  • Prediction & expln of young offenders’ intentions to reoffend from behavioral, normative & control beliefs http://is.gd/f6INT
  • Psych Bulletin 136(5) Surviving the Holocaust: A meta-analysis of the long-term sequelae of a genocide. http://is.gd/eUsUq
  • Screening offenders for risk of drop-out and expulsion from correctional programmes – http://ht.ly/2z9u4
  • Distinguishing truthful from invented accounts using reality monitoring criteria – http://ht.ly/2z8FC
  • Can people successfully feign high levels of interrogative suggestibility & compliance when given instructions to malinger? http://ht.ly/2z8Wz
  • New research – FMRI & deception: “The production and detection of deception in an interactive game” in _Neuropsychologia_ http://is.gd/eUMO3
  • And in the free access PLoS1: fMRI study indicates neural activity associated with deception is valence-related. PLoS One 5(8). http://is.gd/f6IaM

Other bits and pieces, including retweets:

  • “How to Catch a Terrorist: Read His Brainwaves-ORLY?” Wired Danger Room is sceptical about P300 tests as CT measure http://is.gd/f5JFT
  • RT@vaughanbell: Good piece on the attempts to get dodgy fMRI lie detection technology introduced to the courtroom. http://is.gd/eSdP6
  • NPR: A Click Away: Preventing Online Child Porn Viewing http://t.co/VRfaNiz
  • How Can We Help Gang Members Leave the Violence Behind? Share your thoughts on the newest PsycCRITIQUES Blog entry http://bit.ly/blpV04
  • Do prison conditions have more of a deterrent effect on crime than the death penalty? http://su.pr/1WUpIg
  • Great documentary with forensic issues regarding induced delusional or acute polymorphic psychotic disorder: http://bit.ly/bHkJpy

Using forensic linguistics in the criminal justice system

As you know, the Crimepsych blog is on something of a hiatus until later this year. To keep you going, I’m delighted to bring you a guest post from John Olsson of the Forensic Linguistics Institute. John is one of the UK’s most experienced forensic linguists, with over 300 criminal cases in his portfolio. He kindly agreed to answer a few questions about how forensic linguistics contributes to solving crimes. You can find out more about John and his work over at his comprehensive website.

Tell us about some of your cases

I mostly get asked to give an opinion on the authorship of a text, which can be a book, a set of mobile phone texts, letters, emails and so on. I also do plagiarism analysis. For example, about four years ago I was approached by Lew Perdue, the novelist, who claimed that his book had been plagiarised by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. This was a very big case and it went all the way to the US Supreme Court. Most of my work is criminal work. I did the authorship analysis in the case of Garry Weddell, the police inspector accused of murdering his wife. He was released on bail and later shot his mother in law and then himself. I also did the linguistics in the case of Julie Turner, the woman whose body was found in an oil barrel in Yorkshire.

What other kinds of cases do you get involved in?

I often get asked by coroners to look at suicide notes, or other texts surrounding incidents of suspicious death. I also do a lot of hate mail work and I’ve done quite a number of product contamination cases. I also do a lot of insurance and other security work in fraud and forgery cases. Mobile phone text authorship is also a key area in forensic linguistics.

Continue reading Using forensic linguistics in the criminal justice system

Deception blog round-up of recent research

I’ve neglected all the crimepsych blogs over the last few months (pressure of work and a doctorate to finish) but to make up for it, at least partially, I’ve published a round-up of all the interesting deception-related research from the last few months over on the Deception Blog. It’s in six parts (there’s a LOT of it) and can be found via the following links:

Part 1: Discussion of who can catch a liar and some research on signs of lying.

Part 2: New technologies and deception detection, particularly recent advances in the debate over fMRI but also some news about ERP-related deception detection.

Part 3: It’s magic! Reporting on the little flurry of interest in understanding how magicians deceive us, with some lessons for how practiced liars might achieve the same effect.

Part 4: When people lie in specific situations, from 911 calls to deception by the police.

Part 5: Polygraphy, and some recent research on the psychophisiology of lying.

Part 6: Kids’ lies, online lies and my deception book of the year.

Blogging is likely to continue to be sporadic on both this and the other crimepsych blogs over the next few months as I try and finish the doctorate, but if all goes to plan I hope to be back to better blogging by the summer of this year.

Wishing you all the best for a happy, safe and successful year in 2009!

Free access to Sage journals gives you a chance to read all about science and pseudoscience in policing

Once again Sage Journals is throwing its archive open – you can get free access to all Sage journals until 31 October if you register first. A great opportunity to stock up on articles in journals that you or your library don’t subscribe to.

Can I, in particular, recommend you take a look at the latest issue of Criminal Justice and Behavior? It’s a special on “Pseudoscientific Policing Practices and Beliefs” pulled together by guest editor Brent Snook. Scott Lilienfeld and Kristin Landfield’s overview of science and pseudoscience is just ok (I don’t think it’s as good as it could be), but there are useful reviews (among others) of hypnosis in a legal setting (Graham Wagstaff), of detecting deception (Aldert Vrij), and of false confessions (Saul Kassin). These reviews will prove invaluable if you’re new to these areas of research or need a refresher.

Also in this issue, Snook and colleagues examine why criminal profiling is so seductive, when much of what passes for profiling is simply – according to the authors – “smoke and mirrors”. They conclude:

There is a growing belief that profilers can accurately and consistently predict a criminal’s characteristics based on crime scene evidence… We contend that this belief is illusory because a critical analysis of research on CP [criminal profiling] showed that the field lacks theoretical grounding and empirical support.

And there’s an extraordinary and provocative critique of the FBI’s programme to introduce Critical Incident Stress Debriefing for its agents, co-authored by a former agent who was involved in the programme. The authors bemoan the fact that although the business of “law enforcement is inextricably tied to facts, objectivity, organization, and high standards of proof” (p.1342), the FBI did not (according to the authors) apply the same standards when evaluating a stress debriefing programme for its agents. The evidence for the effectiveness of CISD is scant, argue the authors (and there is some evidence that CISD may even be harmful to people exposed to severe trauma). So, the authors explain: “We are thus compelled to consider how an idea so poorly grounded and so seriously discredited came to hold so tenacious a footing in the employee assistance practices of what is arguably the world’s most sophisticated law enforcement agency” (p.1342). Newbold, Lohr and Gist’s concluding comments could serve as an epitaph for the entire issue:

Pseudoscience finds its foothold where the blurring of boundaries allows the imperatives of evidentiary warrant shared by both domains to become compromised. It takes many years of training and experience to become competent as either a law enforcement agent or a psychologist, and either role requires strong focus and strict boundaries to be executed effectively. Police officers who want to play shrink and psychologists who want to play cop run a serious risk of blurring those boundaries.

Here are the contents in full:

  • Brent Snook – Introduction to the Special Issue: Pseudoscientific Policing Practices and Beliefs
  • Scott O. Lilienfeld and Kristin Landfield – Science and Pseudoscience in Law Enforcement: A User-Friendly Primer
  • Michael G. Aamodt – Reducing Misconceptions and False Beliefs in Police and Criminal Psychology
  • John Turtle and Stephen C. Want – Logic and Research Versus Intuition and Past Practice as Guides to Gathering and Evaluating Eyewitness Evidence
  • Brent Snook, Richard M. Cullen, Craig Bennell, Paul J. Taylor, and Paul Gendreau – The Criminal Profiling Illusion: What’s Behind the Smoke and Mirrors?
  • Graham F. Wagstaff – Hypnosis and the Law: Examining the Stereotypes
  • William G. Iacono – Effective Policing: Understanding How Polygraph Tests Work and Are Used
  • Saul M. Kassin – Confession Evidence: Commonsense Myths and Misconceptions
  • Aldert Vrij – Nonverbal Dominance Versus Verbal Accuracy in Lie Detection: A Plea to Change Police Practice
  • Katherine M. Newbold, Jeffrey M. Lohr, and Richard Gist – Apprehended Without Warrant: Issues of Evidentiary Warrant for Critical Incident Services and Related Trauma Interventions in a Federal Law Enforcement Agency
  • David C. Flagel and Paul Gendreau – Commentary: Sense, Common Sense, and Nonsense

Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology: Special Issue on Criminal Profiling

The latest issue of Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology [23(2)] is a Special Issue on Criminal Profiling edited by Craig Bennell. The issue contains several articles on the research basis for criminal profiling, its limitations and applications. In his introduction to the issue, Bennell explains that the papers touch on some of the

…debates [that] are ongoing about what roles profilers should play in criminal investigations, how profiles should be constructed, delivered, and evaluated, whether the contributions made by profilers are valid and, if so, how, and whether there are new, potentially more productive approaches to profiling that could improve upon or even replace the methods that are currently being used.

Though he rightly notes that it’s impossible to do the topic justice in one issue Bennell argues that he has pulled together some examples of research that “will help in some small way to move the profiling field forward”. One problem with this issue, however, is that it only shines a spotlight on research being conducted by members of Bennell’s research lab at Carlton University and Bennell’s current or former associates. As such, it offers a somewhat partial view of the range of research that is and could be done in this area. So I can’t help but agree that this issue represents only a small step forward, but science is generally built on small steps rather than great leaps.

What Bennell has done here is offer a taster of the kind of research that could and should be done to advance this field, including papers on the reliabilility of data that profiles are based on, the theoretical assumptions underlying some forms of profiling, the ways in which readers might interpret profiles and new, potentially fruitful approaches to profiling. There is plenty here that will be of interest to a range of readers including students, more established researchers and practitioners. Contents and further comments after the break.

Continue reading Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology: Special Issue on Criminal Profiling

Special issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology on eyewitness research

journals

The latest issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology (Volume 22 Issue 6, September 2008) is a special devoted to Basic and Applied Issues in Eyewitness Research, edited by Brian H. Bornstein, Christian A. Meissner. Published to mark the centenary of the publication of “On the Witness Stand” by Hugo Munsterburg, one of forensic psychology’s founding fathers, this issue contains a feast of articles by some of the top names in the field, and will be a valuable resource for anyone interested in eyewitness psychology.

The editors explain why the publication of Munsterberg’s text is worth marking:

Hugo Munsterberg, who was one of the earliest researchers on eyewitness memory, is probably the first figure to advocate strongly for a wider reliance by the courts on psychological research… [His] efforts were largely rebuffed … and since that time, there have been repeated calls for the courts to take eyewitness research (indeed, all social science research) more seriously, accompanied by a range of judicial responses ranging from ready acceptance to outright rejection (Monahan & Walker, 2005). Nor are all psychologists of one mind on this issue. Indeed, even Munsterberg himself, who is widely regarded as one of the founders of applied psychology, at times urged caution in applying psychological research findings to real-world problems…

Bornstein and Meissner go on to highlight two other reasons to revisit the issue of applying psychology in the courtroom: First, despite the increasing acceptance of eyewitness research in the courtroom (they say the “American courtroom” but of course other countries’ judicial systems have also taken note) there remain disagreements about the quality and ecological validity of such research. And second, the editors suggest that the “trend for greater acceptance of research findings by the legal system has, in the opinions of some observers, created a situation in which there is an overemphasis on practical questions, accompanied by a lack of theoretical relevance”. In other words, applied researchers need to pay equal attention to theoretical and practical implications of their research.

The articles in this issue set eyewitness research in a historical context and address the specific issues associated with such research and its applications. Highly recommended.

Contents include:

  • Basic and applied issues in eyewitness research: A Münsterberg centennial retrospective – Brian H. Bornstein, Christian A. Meissner
  • Lessons from the origins of eyewitness testimony research in Europe – Siegfried Ludwig Sporer
  • Hugo who? G. F. Arnold’s alternative early approach to psychology and law – Brian H. Bornstein, Steven D. Penrod
  • Toward a more informative psychological science of eyewitness evidence – John Turtle, J. Don Read, D. Stephen Lindsay, C. A. Elizabeth Brimacombe
  • A “middle road” approach to bridging the basic-applied divide in eyewitness identification research – Sean M. Lane, Christian A. Meissner
  • Study space analysis for policy development – Roy S. Malpass, Colin G. Tredoux, Nadja Schreiber Compo, Dawn McQuiston-Surrett, Otto H. MacLin, Laura A. Zimmerman, Lisa D. Topp
  • The importance (necessity) of computational modelling for eyewitness identification research – Steven E. Clark
  • Estimating the impact of estimator variables on eyewitness identification: A fruitful marriage of practical problem solving and psychological theorizing – Kenneth A. Deffenbacher
  • Eyewitness confidence and latency: Indices of memory processes not just markers of accuracy – Neil Brewer, Nathan Weber
  • Münsterberg’s legacy: What does eyewitness research tell us about the reliability of eyewitness testimony? – Amina Memon, Serena Mastroberardino, Joanne Fraser
  • Theory, logic and data: Paths to a more coherent eyewitness science – Gary L. Wells

See also:

Seminar: Obtaining evidence from vulnerable witnesses

Via the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research:

The SIPR [Scottish Institute for Policing Research] Evidence & Investigation Network and Grampian Police have organised a seminar exploring child witnesses and witnesses with learning disabilities. The audience will consist of academics, representatives from the police and the criminal justice system and members of the Scottish Executive.

The free seminar will be held on 15 October in Aberdeen. Speakers include Dr Derek Carson (University of Abertay), Professor Amina Memon (University of Aberdeen) and Dr Penny Woolnough (Grampian Police).

Register using the form here (pdf).

New issue: Psychology, Crime & Law

journals

The latest issue of Psychology, Crime & Law (Volume 14 Issue 3) is one of those issues where almost all the articles look tempting. Given my particular interest in deception I’ll be starting with Granhag and Hartwig’s intriguing offering on mind-reading and deception detection, but the articles on how TV affects legal decision making and linking crimes in serial homicide will be next on the list.

Here’s the line-up:

  • What judges know about eyewitness testimony: A comparison of Norwegian and US judges (Svein Magnussen; Richard A. Wise; Abid Q. Raja; Martin A. Safer; Nell Pawlenko; Ulf Stridbeck)
  • A new theoretical perspective on deception detection: On the psychology of instrumental mind-reading (Pär Anders Granhag; Maria Hartwig)
  • Perceptions of children during a police interrogation: Guilt, confessions, and interview fairness (Allison D. Redlich; Jodi A. Quas; Simona Ghetti)
  • ‘Objection, Your Honor! Television is not the relevant authority.’ Crime drama portrayals of eyewitness issues (Sarah L. Desmarais; Heather L. Price; J. Don Read)
  • Behavioural crime linking in serial homicide (Pekka Santtila; Tom Pakkanen; Angelo Zappalà; Dario Bosco; Maria Valkama; Andreas Mokros)
  • What do prisoners want? Current concerns of adult male prisoners (Mary McMurran; Eleni Theodosi; Anna Sweeney; Joselyn Sellen)

British Psychological Society guidelines on memory

witnessappealThe British Psychological Society has published guidelines on “latest evidence on human memory and how that evidence could be of use to the legal professions”. It’s a very handy overview prepared by experts in the field.

As the principal authors Martin A. Conway and Emily A. Holmes explain in the introduction to the report:

The guidelines and key points should then be taken as they are intended – as guidelines and not absolute statements. Because they are based on widely agreed and acknowledged scientific findings they provide a far more rigorously informed understanding of human memory than that available from commonly held beliefs. In this respect they give courts a much firmer basis for accurate decision-making.

According to the press release (11 July):

The report has some sobering key points on the reliability of people’s memories in court cases. Key points of ‘Memory and Law’ include:

  • The content of memories arises from an individual’s comprehension of an experience, both conscious and non-conscious. This content can be further modified and changed by subsequent recall
  • Any account of a memory will feature forgotten details and gaps
  • People can remember events that they have not in reality experienced

You can find out more about the research and download the full report via the BPS website here.

Photo credit: Martin Deutsch, Creative Commons License