Research in the Forensic Psychology Unit

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An overview of some of our current research initiatives:

  • Eliciting reliable information from victims and eyewitnesses (Gordon Wright & Fiona Gabbert): Information from victims and eyewitnesses plays a crucial role in criminal investigations worldwide, enabling fair prosecutions and preventing miscarriages of justice. Our research seeks to advance the science of investigative interviewing by developing effective and evidence-based interview tools and training. We are currently exploring the benefits of building rapport and trust in an interview context.
  • The suggestibility of memory (Fiona Gabbert). A phenomenon called 'memory conformity’ can occur when people discuss their memories together. My research in this area has contributed to the theoretical understanding of human memory, as the majority of previous psychological research focuses only on individual memorial performance. Forensic implications are that witness statements that appear corroborative may actually be ‘contaminated’, and hence unreliable.
  • From deception to counter-deception (Gordon Wright): The risk of deception is ever-present within the criminal justice system and beyond.  Our research seeks to mitigate this threat by identifying lies, identifying liars, and developing counter-deception techniques. By combining strands of research using a range of analytic approaches and techniques, we are able to inform counter-deception practice, i.e. methods by which to deter or detect deception in applied forensic settings. 
  • Perceptions and experiences of stalking (Adrian Scott). Stalking-like behaviour has been documented in legal cases dating back to the early 18th century, but it remains a difficult crime to define and legislate against. Unlike most crimes, stalking does not comprise a single distressing event and encompasses a series of intrusions over a prolonged period of time that may appear routine and harmless in isolation. My research in this area examines how and why perceptions of stalking differ from reality to better understand why victims and observers of stalking may not identify behaviour as such.
  • Implications of misconceptions of memory for the legal system (Chris French). The Criminal Justice System is often heavily reliant on the recollections of eyewitnesses when gathering evidence for a forensic investigation. It is vital that these recollections are accurate or miscarriages of justice can occur. However, human memory is fallible and susceptible to error. Our research explores the implications of misconceptions of memory on the part of clinicians, legal professionals, and the general public for the operation of the legal system via reviews of relevant scientific literature and surveys.
  • Assessment of executive functions using my virtual-reality assessment (Ashok Jansari). I have published a few papers on how this can be used to give a more accurate understanding of an individual's executive functions than current clinical tests are able to. We have shown this in patients with brain-damage (two published studies), patients with prostate cancer (as yet unpublished) and ex-offenders who have had head injuries during childhood which may have caused cognitive difficulties which contributed to either the first criminal offence or the cycle of reoffending.
  • Better methods of assessing face-memory ability (Ashok Jansari). Since a lot of identification in forensic settings requires recognition of individuals by their faces, having an accurate assessment of this ability is important. We have developed a test of face memory which we hope will contribute to helping identify individuals who might be more suitable as eye-witnesses than others who are poor at face memory.
  • The Self-Administered Interview (Fiona Gabbert). One of our most significant contributions to the field of applied memory research has been to design and develop a ‘Self-Administered Interview’ (SAI) recall tool that can be used by the police to elicit high quality evidence from multiple witnesses quickly, efficiently, and with minimal resources necessary. Specifically, it is a protocol of instructions and questions, based upon cognitive theories of remembering, that support eyewitnesses when recollecting and recording their memories of an incident.
  • Eyewitness testimony and the underlying decision-making process (Adrian Scott). Eyewitness testimony remains one of the most persuasive forms of evidence despite research to suggest that it is fallible. Research has sought to reduce this fallibility by examining the accuracy of different identification procedures, including simultaneous and sequential line-ups, but this research has often confounded practical and theoretical considerations. My research examines the accuracy of eyewitness testimony obtained via simultaneous and sequential line-ups to better understand the underlying decision-making process.

The Self Administered Witness - Interviewing Tool

The Self Administered Interview