Research Grants 2021
We are pleased to announce that the winner of two small research grants in 2021 are Emily Spearing and Connor Leslie who received €500 and €175 to conduct their research projects, respectively. Both grants will be used for participant incentive.
Short summary of Emily Spearing’s research:
During cross-examination, lawyers may use a range of confusing and suggestive questions intended to assess and enhance the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, such as questions containing negatives (e.g., “Is it not true that the perpetrator was wearing a black coat?”). Concerningly, research shows that cross-examination style questions can impair the accuracy of child witnesses compared to simple questions, but it is not clear how such questions affect adult witnesses. Our study will examine how different types of cross-examination style questions affect the accuracy of adults’ memory reports and their confidence in those reports. We will also examine whether the people’s memory accuracy and confidence in an initial memory test predicts response change under cross-examination style questioning in a second memory test. This research will further our understanding of the effectiveness of cross-examination for evaluating eyewitness testimony, and the usefulness of confidence judgements for predicting the accuracy of witness’ reports.
Short summary of Connor Leslie’s research:
Our ability to detect emotion from faces and body movements has long been documented, with our body being described as a robust source for inferring emotion and intention. Research has found that while we are able to detect threatening traits from viewing faces and bodies, there is mixed understanding as to whether police officers are better at detecting threatening behaviours than civilians. Acts of public disorder are experienced across the globe, and it is vital for officers to make quick, yet accurate decisions about potential threats. An understanding of how officers detect those that may have violent intent could have extensive practical implications. There is a myriad of research investigating police officers’ ability to assess potential threats, but there has been no qualitative data into what police officers attend to when assessing threatening behaviour. Therefore, the aim of the current study is to qualitatively analyse semi-structured interviews with police officers to better understand how they detect threatening behaviours.
Research Grants 2020
We are pleased to announce that the winner of two small research grants in 2020 are Eleanor Bryant and Mikaela Magnusson. Both winners received €400 to conduct their research projects.
Short summary of Eleanor Bryant’s research:
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a serious global public health issue, often causing long-term disability amongst survivors. High rates of TBI have been found in prison populations, yet little is known about how key decision-makers in the legal system evaluate such defendants. TBI is considered an invisible disability because the cognitive and emotional effects are hidden and there are often no visible, physical markers of disability. Consequently, TBI-related behaviour may be attributed to other causes. This study manipulated whether a defendant had TBI, and whether the TBI was accompanied by a physical marker of injury. After exclusions, 343 adults from the general population read fictional sentencing materials where the defendant had committed an assault, followed by the magistrates’ sentencing verdict. Participants were asked to rate the appropriateness of the magistrates’ sentencing recommendation. It was predicted that the recommended sentence would be perceived as being harsher for defendants with a TBI than for defendants without a TBI, but only when that TBI was accompanied by a physical marker of injury. Contrary to predictions, no significant differences were found between the conditions; effect sizes were close to zero. There was no evidence that participants evaluated defendants with TBI differently, irrespective of whether a physical marker of injury was also present. Misconceptions about the long-term effects of TBI may have led to participants ignoring or underestimating the impact of the TBI on the defendant. To examine if increasing the visibility of TBI impacts decision making, future research should explore the role of TBI education in legal decision-making research to increase the salience of TBI to participants.
Short summary of Mikaela Magnusson’s research:
Legal practitioners experience interviewing children across countries: Comparing practices in the UK, Sweden, and Norway
The present study aims to compare police interviewers’ perceptions and experiences interviewing children in Sweden, Norway, and the UK. Through a series of focus groups with police interviewers, we will explore similarities and differences in their experiences of interviewing children using the interviewing protocols implemented in each country. This cross-country comparison of practitioners’ views of handling child cases could help guide future research and contribute valuable knowledge regarding the efficacy of different child interviewing protocols. The study also aims to capture practitioners’ views on the Scandinavian Barnahus Model.
The research project, which is led by Dr Hannah Cassidy at the University of Brighton, is carried out by a team of researchers from the UK, Sweden, and Norway. Mikaela Magnusson (student applicant) will use the EAPL student grant to work on the Scandinavian data collections.
Research Grant 2018
We are pleased to announce that the winner of the small research grant in 2018 is Alejandra De La Fuente Vilar for her research titled “Singing Like a Bird: What Works in Interviews with Uncooperative Witnesses?”. She received €500 to conduct her research.
Short summary of her research:
Some witnesses during a criminal investigation refuse to become involved and to cooperate with the police. Practitioners find challenging to overcome lack of witness cooperation, and it can be detrimental for information gathering. In the interview room, witnesses who are uncooperative are ultimately unwilling to provide valid information that can aid the case. While previous research has informed best practice guidelines to interview witnesses, the efficacy of these guidelines and their application are highly dependent on the level of cooperation from the interviewee. In fact, different interviewing approaches propose strategies to overcome resistance, gain cooperation, and obtain the most accurate, complete and reliable accounts. However, there is no empirical evidence regarding their effectiveness when interviewing initially uncooperative witnesses. Therefore, we propose to examine the extent to which accusatorial and information gathering interviewing strategies decrease witness reluctance and promote disclosure of valid information. Findings from our research will have implications for interviewing practice, practitioners in the legal system, as well as for future research on witness cooperation.
This project is embedded in Alejandra’s PhD research examining investigative interviews with uncooperative witnesses. She is a PhD student financed by the House of Legal Psychology, working in Maastricht University and Gothenburg University. Her supervisory team consists of Prof. Peter van Koppen, Dr. Robert Horselenberg, Prof. Leif Strömwall, and Dr. Sara Landström.