The research in the Psychology and Law Lab pertains to the study of human behaviour within the criminal justice system. We aim to advance scientific literacy within the criminal justice system and conduct research that improves the administration of justice. Specifically, our research can be categorized by the following three areas:
1. Psychological-Based Investigative Practices
Within this area, we test the assumptions about human behaviour that form the basis of various investigative techniques. For example, we examine empirical and theoretical basis of practices such as criminal profiling, linking crimes through computerized databases, and Canada’s DNA databank.
We also explore how people comprehend their legal rights. We also examine the memory, communication, and social influence processes associated with the investigative interviewing of witnesses and suspects.
2. Bounded Rationality and Law
The legal system is comprised of a series of consequential decisions being made by offenders, victims, witnesses, police officers, lawyers, judges, jurors, probation officers, parole officers, and so on. Our research explores the cognitive strategies that individuals within the criminal justice system are using to search for decision options and information about those options, stop that search, and make decisions. Our research also attempts to determine when and why certain decision strategies work well. Within this area, I also examine the cognitive strategies that people use to make decisions in social environments.
3. Applied Research and Training
We use research findings from the previous two areas to facilitate the development and implementation of training programs that attempt to improve the criminal justice system. For example, since 2008, we have undertaken a major project to reform the way police officers in Canada interview victims, witnesses, and suspects. We have taught several Tier 1 (interviewing fundamentals) courses to over 250 police officers.
We have also delivered Tier 2 (specialized interviewing techniques) courses to over 100 police officers from across Canada (e.g., Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, Peel Regional Police, Halton Regional Police, Canadian Police College, Greater Sudbury Police, Vancouver Police Department).
To ensure that the training is working as intended, we conduct field studies of our training.