Category Archives: Deception

Quick links for the last week

New issues:

  • Law and Human Behavior 34(5) 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
  • Psychology, Crime & Law 16(8) 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)
  • The role of perpetrator similarity in reactions toward innocent victims Eur J Soc Psy 40(6) Depressing.
  • Detecting concealed information w/ reaction times: Validity & comparison w/ polygraph App Cog Psych 24(7)
  • Eliciting cues to children’s deception via strategic disclosure of evidence App Cog Psych 24(7)
  • Can fabricated evidence induce false eyewitness testimony? App Cog Psych 24(7) Free access
  • In press, B J Soc Psy Cues to deception in context. Apparently ‘context’ = ‘Jeremy Kyle Show’. Can’t wait for the paper!
  • Narrative & abductive processes in criminal profiling Free if u register for Sage trial
  • Children’s contact with incarcerated parents: Research findings & recommendations American Psych 65(6)
  • Comparing victim attributions & outcomes for workplace aggression & sexual harassment in J App Psych 95(5)
  • Correctional Psychologist Burnout, Job Satisfaction, and Life Satisfaction. In Psych Services 7(3)
  • It’s okay to shoot a character. Paper on morals in video games
  • Perceptions about memory reliability and honesty for children of 3 to 18 years old –

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:

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

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

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
  • RT@vaughanbell: Good piece on the attempts to get dodgy fMRI lie detection technology introduced to the courtroom.
  • NPR: A Click Away: Preventing Online Child Porn Viewing
  • How Can We Help Gang Members Leave the Violence Behind? Share your thoughts on the newest PsycCRITIQUES Blog entry
  • Do prison conditions have more of a deterrent effect on crime than the death penalty?
  • Great documentary with forensic issues regarding induced delusional or acute polymorphic psychotic disorder:

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

New issue: Psychology, Crime & Law


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 (P?r 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)

Forthcoming conference on interviewing and deception

The 3rd International Conference on Investigative Interviewing will be held 16-18 June 2008 in Quebec, Canada. The theme is “The Search for the Truth”. According to the website:

This conference is mainly addressed to:
? investigators and civilian and police personnel from Québec, Canadian, and international police forces;
? investigators from Quebec, Canadian, and international governmental organizations;
? academics and researchers from fields closely related to investigations;
? and Crown Attorneys.

The chair of the Scientific committee, Michel St Yves writes:

The statements of witnesses, victims and suspects, represent a considerable part of the work conducted by investigators. Testimonials and facts must be brought together in order to solve the puzzle. Testimonials bring meaning to the facts and make them live. It is through testimonials that we establish the truth.

It is with tremendous pride that I invite you to participate in the third great assembly. The search for the truth through witness, victim, and suspect accounts, is at the very essence of the pursuit for justice.

More details, including a programme, details of speakers and a registration form on the conference website. (Note: the site doesn’t work properly with Opera but it’s fine with Firefox and IE.)

Applying fMRI to the question of guilt versus innocence – on TV and then in an academic journal…

brainscan2 A press release (2 Nov) heralds the publication of a new study by Professor Sean Spence from the University of Sheffield, who claims the research shows that fMRI “could be used alongside other factors to address questions of guilt versus innocence”. It’s an interesting study on two counts:?one, it appears to be the first time that fMRI lie-detection research has been carried out using a real world case (as opposed to contrived experiments), and two, the research was funded by a TV company and featured on a TV documentary earlier this year. The article is currently in press in the journal European Psychiatry (reference below).

The press release gives a summary of the findings:

An academic at the University of Sheffield has used groundbreaking technology to investigate the potential innocence of a woman convicted of poisoning a child in her care. Professor Sean Spence, who has pioneered the use of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to detect lies, carried out groundbreaking experiments on the woman who, despite protesting her innocence, was sentenced to four years in prison. ….Using the technology, Professor Spence examined the woman′s brain activity as she alternately confirmed her account of events and that of her accusers. The tests demonstrated that when she agreed with her accusers′ account of events she activated extensive regions of her frontal lobes and also took significantly longer to respond – these findings have previously been found to be consistent with false or untrue statements.

In the acknowledgements section of the paper the authors reveal that the study “was funded by Quickfire Media in association with Channel Four Television”. The case Spence et al. describe as that of “Woman X” was featured in Channel 4’s Lie Lab series (and if you’re really interested, you can easily identify X in a couple of clicks). Although unusual, this isn’t the first time that research featured on TV has found its way into academic journals: see, for example, Haslam and Reicher’s academic publications based on their controversial televised replication of Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment .

In theory, I am not sure it necessarily matters if a study is done for TV, if it is carried out in an ethical and scientific way, and the subsequent article(s) meet rigorous standards of peer review. Nor does it always matter if the academic research then receives wider publicity as a result. In this case, however, I hope that anyone picking up and reporting further on this story reads the actual paper, in which Spence and his co-authors consider carefully the implications of the study and the caveats that should be applied to the results:

To our knowledge, this is the first case described where fMRI or any other form of functional neuroimaging has been used to study truths and lies derived from a genuine ‘real-life’ scenario, where the events described pertain to a serious forensic case. All the more reason then for us to remain especially cautious while interpreting our findings and to ensure that we make explicit their limitations: the weaknesses of our approach (p.4).

The authors go on to discuss alternative interpretations of their results: Perhaps X had told her story so many times that her responses were automatic? Perhaps the emotive nature of the subject under discussion (poisoning a child) gave rise to the observed pattern of activation? Maybe X used countermeasures (such as moving her head or using cognitive distractions)? Perhaps she “has ‘convinced herself’ of her innocence … she answered sincerely though ‘incorrectly’”? In this case, perhaps the researchers have “merely imaged ‘self-deception’” (p.5)? For each argument, the authors discuss the pros and cons, remaining careful not to claim too much for their results, and pointing out that further empirical enquiry is needed.

These cautions are also echoed in Spence’s comments at the end of the press release:

“This research provides a fresh opportunity for the British legal system as it has the potential to reduce the number of miscarriages of justice. However, it is important to note that, at the moment, this research doesn′t prove that this woman is innocent. Instead, what it clearly demonstrates is that her brain responds as if she were innocent.”


See also :

  • Mind Hacks discusses an article in which Raymond Tallis “laments the rise of ‘neurolaw’ where brain scan evidence is used in court in an attempt to show that the accused was not responsible for their actions”.
  • Deception Blog posts on brain scanning and deception

Abstract below the fold.

Photo credit: killermonkeys, Creative Commons License

Continue reading Applying fMRI to the question of guilt versus innocence – on TV and then in an academic journal…

The Law and Ethics of Brain Scanning – audio material online

MP3onredHat tip to Mind Hacks (25 June) for alterting us to the fact that the organisers of the conference on The Law and Ethics of Brain Scanning: Coming soon to a courtroom near you?, held in Arizona in April, have uploaded both the powerpoint presentations and MP3s of most of the lectures to the conference website.

A feast of interesting material here that should keep you going, even on the longest commute, including:

  • “Brain Imaging and the Mind: Pseudoscience or Science?” – William Uttal, Arizona State University
  • “Overview of Brain Scanning Technologies” – John J.B. Allen, Department of Psychology, University of Arizona
  • “Brain Scanning and Lie Detection” – Steven Laken, Founder and CEO, Cephos Corporation
  • “Brain Scanning in the Courts: The Story So Far” – Gary Marchant, Center for the Study of Law, Science, & Technology Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
  • “Legal Admissibility of Neurological Lie Detection Evidence” – Archie A. Alexander, Health Law & Policy Institute, University of Houston Law Center
  • “Demonstrating Brain Injuries with Brain Scanning” – Larry Cohen, The Cohen Law Firm
  • “Harm and Punishment: An fMRI Experiment” – Owen D. Jones, Vanderbilt University School of Law & Department of Biological Sciences
  • “Through a Glass Darkly: Transdisciplinary Brain Imaging Studies to Predict and Explain Abnormal Behavior” – James H. Fallon, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of California, Irvine
  • “Authenticity, Bluffing, and the Privacy of Human Thought: Ethical Issues in Brain Scanning” – Emily Murphy, Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics
  • “Health, Disability, and Employment Law Implications of MRI” – Stacey Tovino, Hamline University School of Law

From a deception researcher’s point of view, the chance to hear from Steven Laken of commercial fMRI deception detection company Cephos will be particularly interesting.

Mind Hacks also notes that ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind on 23 June featured many of the speakers from this conference in a discussion of neuroscience, criminality and the courtroom. The webpage accompanying this programme has a great reference list. For those interested in deception research, I particularly recommend Wolpe, Foster & Langleben (2005) for an informative overview of the potential uses and dangers of neurotechnologies and deception detection.


Articles of forensic interest in the latest issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology

Three articles of forensic interest in the July 2007 issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology (vol 21, no 5):

New issue: Law and Human Behavior 31(3)


The June 2007 issue of Law and Human Behavior 31(3) is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • The Mitigating Effects of Suspicion on Post-Identification Feedback and on Retrospective Eyewitness Memory – Jeffrey S. Neuschatz, Deah S. Lawson, Andrew H. Fairless, Ráchael A. Powers, Joseph S. Neuschatz, Charles A. Goodsell, Michael P. Toglia
  • An Evaluation of Malingering Screens with Competency to Stand Trial Patients: A Known-Groups Comparison – Michael J. Vitacco, Richard Rogers, Jason Gabel, Janice Munizza
  • Race-Based Judgments, Race-Neutral Justifications: Experimental Examination of Peremptory Use and the Batson Challenge Procedure – Samuel R. Sommers, Michael I. Norton
  • Competence to Complete Psychiatric Advance Directives: Effects of Facilitated Decision Making – Eric B. Elbogen, Jeffrey W. Swanson, Paul S. Appelbaum, Marvin S. Swartz, Joelle Ferron, Richard A. Van Dorn, H. Ryan Wagner
  • The Comparison Question Test: Does It Work and If So How? – Heinz Offe, Susanne Offe
  • Incarceration and Recidivism among Sexual Offenders – Kevin L. Nunes, Philip Firestone, Audrey F. Wexler, Tamara L. Jensen, John M. Bradford