Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from April, 2018

Thinking about the law like a psychological scientist

Before psychological scientists design studies and collect data, we need something to study. That is, we need questions to answer. For researchers like us, specialists in psychology and law*, these questions are usually related to the legal system. But where specifically do we get our ideas? In some cases, they are the result of applying our scientific knowledge and training to a topic; in others, we see an event or case and want to know more about it.
One place we get our ideas is from real-life events, like criminal cases. Sometimes these are cases that are reported widely by the media; sometimes they are cases we encounter in the course of our work. Cases that seem to defy common sense make us ask questions about how they could have happened. A prominent example of a crime inspiring research is the infamous murder of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese. Kitty was murdered in 1964 in Queens, New York in a brutal attack that occurred over a time period of about half an hour. Press coverage of …

Fishing for false memories with bait questions

Medicine, regardless of how effective it is, can have negative side effects. Normally we are willing to tolerate even severe side effects if it can cure a more serious illness – like awful side effects of chemotherapy that can send cancer into remission. Similarly, we sometimes accept intrusive investigative tactics if they help protect society – such as investigators pretending to be criminals while undercover to catch serious criminals. But what of tactics that pose side effects with only questionable benefit? This week, we discuss one such example – the “bait question” which may help detect deception but has the unintended consequence of creating false memories.

When investigating a crime, detectives often collect evidence by talking with people, such as an eyewitness that saw the crime, someone who can corroborate an alibi (well, hopefully), or a suspect who may have committed the crime. Of course, people’s statements to police aren’t always trustworthy. After all, if they commit…

Catching lies

Psychologists in virtually every field have myths they have to fight. Personality psychologists have deal with the baseless but popular Myers-Briggs personality types1,2. Developmental psychologists have to deal with the false claim that playing Mozart for babies improves their intelligence3. Like other deception researchers, I have to deal with people’s persistent and inaccurate beliefs about lies and how to catch them. I’d roughly estimate that – in my own limited experience – somewhere around 60% of the time, when I tell someone I study deception, they ask me if I can read people’s behavior and tell when someone is lying. My typical answer is, “No, I can’t do that. You can’t do that. No one can do that.”
Myths are often more appealing than reality. They’re frequently simpler, easier to understand, and more romantic than what science tells us4. People seem to enjoy the idea that lies can be caught by carefully observing a person’s body language or slight muscular movements in the fac…

Let's talk about the role of psychology in law

Will and Timothy are joined by guest Dr. Jason Chin, for a chat about the relationship between psychology and law.
In this chat format, we gather regular authors and guests in Slack and have a moderated conversation, guided by prompts and questions selected in advance. Participants get to respond to each other's points, make comments, and ask each other questions in real-time.
The transcript has been lightly edited.


Will Crozier &#x1F419 Welcome to another Exercise in Exceptions chat! We’ve talked a lot about how psychology research can influence the law – but that research needs to make it into the courts to actually make the intended difference. However, it’s never as easy as explaining a study or two to a jury. In this chat, we’re going to discuss this collision a bit – how psychology science is used in the legal system.
Timothy and I are joined by Dr. Jason Chin, a lecturer at the TC Beirne School of Law at University of Queensland, Australia. Welcome, Jason!
Jason Thanks for h…