Research

Jason C.K. Chan

Reducing Eyewitness Suggestibility

The societal and economic impact of wrongful convictions is enormous, and faulty eyewitness evidence has contributed to over 70% of the DNA exonerated (and hence wrongful) convictions in the US. Given the important role that eyewitness memory plays in determining guilt, it is in the best interest of the legal system to seek techniques to increase the reliability of eyewitness accounts. Research has shown that retrieval practice (or memory testing) is one of the best techniques to enhance memory retention. In light of this, some researchers have suggested that retrieval practice can be implemented to improve the probative value of eyewitness evidence. However, research in my lab has also shown that retrieval practice can sometimes make witnesses more susceptible to being misled by later suggestions – a common and important contaminant of eyewitness accounts.  One of my current research agenda is to examine techniques that can minimize eyewitness susceptibiliy to misleading suggestions.

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Max Guyll

Interrogation and Confession

My research focuses on criminal interrogations and intelligence interviews. In particular, I examine the psychological processes associated with various interrogation tactics and how they influence suspects’ cognitive, emotional, physiologic and behavioral reactions, including the decision of whether or not to confess to a crime. Current work in my lab explores the role of rapport in gaining suspect compliance, how such effect are mediated, and the importance of interviewer and suspect personalities in potentiating the effects of rapport within the interrogation context. I also investigate the effects of suspects’ actual innocence and guilt for the purpose of understanding the processes that produce false confession.

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Stephanie Madon

Confession & Forensic Analysis

My research examines how social influence processes alter people’s behavior within a variety of socially important contexts. My main line of research examines why criminal suspects confess to crimes when subjected to police pressure. My work in this area emphasizes the idea that police interrogation exploits suspects’ psychological vulnerabilities in ways that can make them highly susceptible to misinformation, short-sighted thinking, false memories, and false confessions. I also have interests in forensic analysis, especially the forensic analysis of fired cartridge cases.

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Christian Meissner

Investigative Interviews & Lie Detection

My research focuses on applied cognition, including the role of memory, attention, perception, and decision processes in real world tasks such as eyewitness identification, forensic interviewing, deception detection, legal decision making, and comparative forensic sciences. He has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and his research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security. From 2010-2012, he served as Program Director of Law & Social Sciences at the National Science Foundation. Dr. Meissner is currently President of the Society for Applied Research in Memory & Cognition, and is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and the Psychonomic Society.

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Gary Wells

Eyewitness Account Reliability

My research interests fall broadly into the interface of social/cognitive psychology and the legal system. Much of my work has been concerned with how the legal system can reduce mistaken identifications. Mistaken eyewitness identification is involved in about 75% of cases in which people were wrongfully convicted and later exonerated using DNA testing. We are particularly interested in ways in which the legal system fails to prevent various distortions in eyewitness accounts by the way it collects eyewitness evidence. More recently we have also been testing an idea that we developed to help reduce the influence of contextual bias among forensic examiners. Contextual bias occurs when the forensic examiner’s expectations or extraneous information lead them to make positive match decisions even though the forensic examination itself produced an ambiguous result. Currently, forensic match tests (e.g., matching handwriting on a ransom note to a suspect’s handwriting) are structured in a way to cannot effectively guard against the influence of contextual bias.

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