Centre for Forensic and Investigative Psychology
Harnessing, growing and disseminating our extensive expertise in forensic and investigative psychology.View content
In October 2017, the Forensic and Investigative Psychology research cluster in the Department of Psychology formally became the Centre For Forensic and Investigative Psychology. The centre was established based on a strong expertise in the department in forensic and investigative psychology research. Since 2017, the Centre has grown from strength to strength.
- To increase understanding of the psychological processes involved in forensic and investigative settings.
- Through research, to determine effective practices for improving victim, suspect, perpetrator and witness experiences.
- To encourage and develop research opportunities and evidence-based policy and practice in these settings.
- To share knowledge within and beyond the academic world.
The centre runs a speaker series with talks from international experts on forensic and investigative topics, as well as contributing to related areas within the Faculty of Law, Crime and Justice, such as the Criminal Justice Research Network.
CFIP supports both the taught postgraduate students undertaking the MSc Forensic Psychology and our postgraduate research students undertaking research in the fields of Forensic and Investigative Psychology. Please see below for more details and postgraduate research opportunities.
The impact of our research
CFiP members have submitted two case studies to demonstrate the impact of their research for the most recent Research Excellence Framework, the system for assessing the quality of research in UK Higher Education institutions.
- Dr Wendy Kneller: Changing perceptions of intoxicated eyewitness performance
- Dr Rachel Wilcock: Helping child witnesses to remember more
For further details, explore our REF 2021 page.
Meet the team
Follow the links below to find out more about our research interests, areas of supervision and latest publications.
- Dr Rachel Wilcock (eyewitness identification, interviewing witnesses, child/vulnerable witnesses)
- Dr Sarah Bayless (intoxicated witnesses)
- Dr Debra Collins (witnesses with intellectual disabilities)
- Dr Deborah Crossland (intoxicated witnesses)
- Dr Jackie Hillman (detecting deception)
- Dr Gary Lancaster (detecting deception
- Dr Beth Parsons (witnesses with mental health problems)
- Dr Jordan Randell (sub-clinical personality traits and eyewitness memory)
- Dr Liam Satchell (antisocial behaviour, interviewing psychology and applied methodology & statistics)
- Dr Yvonne Shell (Visiting Lecturer in Psychology)
- Dr Feni Kontogianni (information elicitation)
- Dr Genevieve Waterhouse (vulnerable witnesses)
An important and valued part of our research community, Psychology research students are studying a wide range of fascinating, often interdisciplinary, topics, supervised by our academic staff. For example, Ruby Swain is exploring the strategic metacognitive approach to deception detection, while Jamie Kiltie's research topic is 'Understanding individual's perceptions of behavioural indicators of Rapport within investigative interviewing.'
Research and Knowledge Exchange News and Events
Centre key partner in new initiative to support the maritime community against sexual abuse at sea
Recent surveys have revealed that serious sexual assaults on UK vessels are under reported. Vulnerable victims are unsupported and unsure how to seek emotional support and guidance regarding engaging with the UK criminal justice system. The Centre for Forensic and Investigative Psychology is collaborating with charity Safer Waves and Devon and Cornwall Police on a new initiative to support the seafaring community and tackle the challenges currently facing seafarers with regards to collection of evidence, reporting crime and accessing victim support.
We run a programme of regular research seminars throughout the year, which both our own research staff and students use to communicate their research to colleagues and external partners. We also regularly invite external speakers, both practitioners and academics, to talk about their work and experiences in the field.
On 14 Dec. 2022, we were delighted to welcome Prof. Ray Bull, who presented a talk titled Improving the Interviewing of Suspects. Ray Bull is Professor of Criminal Investigation at the University of Derby, Emeritus Professor of Forensic Psychology at the University of Leicester, a Distinguished Member of the American Psychology-Law Society and the first ‘International Ambassador’ of the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group (IIIRG).
On 20-24 June 2022, the Centre for Forensic and Investigative Psychology hosted the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group Conference, a worldwide network of professionals who work to improve investigative interviewing. The conference was opened by our Vice Chancellor and was a huge success putting the Centre on the world map for leading research in Forensic Investigative Psychology. Just before the conference Dr Rachel Wilcock alongside practitioner collaborators delivered a sold out two day master class on eliciting evidence from vulnerable witnesses.
On 31 March 2021, we had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer Kamorowski from Plymouth University in New Hampshire speak about her work on cognitive bias in risk assessment. The talk, titled ‘(Accurately) predicting the future is hard: Cognitive bias and risk assessment’, addressed the research regarding sources of bias that have the potential to infect forensic risk evaluations, as well as risk-based decisions in criminal justice settings. It concluded with discussion of some promising strategies to help mitigate the influence of bias in forensic risk evaluations.
On 10 Feb 2021, we hosted Stefana Juncu from the University of Portsmouth for her talk ‘Finding the missing: Do image variability and names in missing person appeals improve prospective person memory?’. Stefana described her work in this under-researched area, focussing on face recognition, looking at both prospective person memory and eyewitness identification.
On 25 Nov 2020, Dr Yvonne Shell, Consultant Clinical & Forensic Psychologist, Interim Director of Criminal Justice for Together for Mental Wellbeing & Senior Clinical Teaching Fellow, presented ‘A clinical understanding of a murder case study, including the role of shame’.
On 5 Feb. 2020, we welcomed Prof. Galit Nahari from Bar-Ilan University in Israel, who gave a talk on her research titled 'Identifying deception strategy traces: The Verifiability Approach, its theoretical stems and research prospects'. While truth-tellers usually believe that sticking with the truth is the best strategy for convincing others of their honesty, liars attempt to manipulate their fabricated accounts to make them seem truthful. Such strategic manipulations applied by liars reduce the diagnostic efficacy of verbal lie detection indicators. Yet those liars' strategies leave verbal traces, which in turn can be used for lie detection. Prof. Nahari outlined the Verifiability Approach (VA) and discussed the VA's validity and applicability as a verbal lie detection tool.
On 8 April 2019, the Centre hosted a one-day conference on Vulnerable Witnesses for invited criminal justice system practitioners, including police forces across the country, Hampshire Office of Police and Crime Commissioner, Citizens Advice Witness services, Registered Intermediaries, and the Ministry of Defence. The day focussed on presenting research on vulnerable witnesses undertaken by members of the Centre, and we welcomed keynote speakers Kev Smith from the National Crime Agency and Dr David LaRooy from Royal Holloway University London.
Selected ongoing research topics and current PhD supervision opportunities
The following topics comprise ongoing research and ideas for possible research supervision. The list is by no means exhaustive and Centre members are happy to discuss any alternative ideas you may have.
Exploring the eyewitness capabilities of individuals with a formal mental health diagnosis
Whilst there is literature on the general memory capabilities of individuals with a formal mental health diagnosis, very little research to date has explored this within an eyewitness capacity specifically. Given the prevalence of mental health currently within the UK, it is likely that individuals with a mental health disorder witness crime and therefore come into contact with the Criminal Justice System. However, their eyewitness capabilities are unknown. Further research is needed to better understand how such individuals perform as eyewitnesses to enable them to provide their best evidence and to prevent as much as possible any stereotypes and biases held by legal practitioners. If you are interested in working on this topic, please contact Dr Beth Parsons.
Strategic and metacognitive approaches to detecting deception, truth and hidden knowledge
Accurate deception and truth detection remains a challenge for both expert and non-expert investigators. The strategic metacognitive approach, currently being developed by Dr Gary Lancaster, examines how a range of cognitive tasks may be used which encourage liars to invoke specific countermeasure strategies. Specifically, we are seeking to create tasks for which the strategies used by liars differ from those used by a truth teller. By examining the response patterns of an interviewee during and after the task, it may be possible to detect which strategies are being used and thus infer whether the person is being deceptive or truthful. Our current studies are exploring the utility of this approach for detecting whether a person is deliberately concealing incriminating knowledge from an investigator. If you are interested in working on this topic, please contact Dr Gary Lancaster.
The role of culture in interviewing witnesses, victims and sources
Investigators often interact with interviewees from diverse cultural backgrounds. However, most research on investigative interviewing techniques has focussed on Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic (WEIRD) samples. A PhD in this area of research could investigate i) the effect of culture on remembering past events; ii) the influence of culturally shared norms on communicating information; iii) the effective use of practices that can facilitate reporting in cross-cultural contexts. If you are interested in working on this topic, please contact Dr Feni Kontogianni.
Retrieval and reporting of repeated events
A large body of research has examined how memory of repeated events works in children, with the aim of developing effective interviewing techniques. Research on adults’ memory of repeated events is instead very limited. Research in this area could help develop appropriate methodologies to investigate the role of cognitive processes when experiencing repeated events. It could explore the presence of various factors, which occur at encoding (e.g. deviations from script) or at retrieval (e.g. the use of interviewing techniques and mnemonics), and which can be used to understand and facilitate memory of repeated events. If you are interested in working on this topic, please contact Dr Feni Kontogianni.
Exploring 'microcriminality' and transitions to other criminal behaviours
Many people break the letter of the law in their everyday life. Some reports even suggest the vast majority of people engage with behaviour like media piracy, not paying appropriately for public transport, or engage in cash-in-hand work. These are all illegal activities with inconvenience to society, but they are understudied. Moreover, the connection between breaking these laws and breaking other laws is not well understood. Research in this area would contribute to understanding the importance of treating 'criminal' behaviour as a series of discrete behaviours, rather than one state. This research also links to other risk-taking behaviours, such as alcohol use, illegal substance use, and social and sexual risk-taking. If you are interested in working on this topic, please contact Dr Liam Satchell.
Improving bias detection and avoiding bias in forensic investigations
Forensic science involves the detection and interpretation of physical evidence by humans. Humans are vulnerable to errors and biases. Human factors research has grown in security and engineering contexts, and recently concerns about the bias in forensic science has also increased research in this area. Developing better tools for detecting and mitigating analysts bias will help improve the effectiveness of forensic science investigations. Psychologists have a range of theoretical and analytical frameworks that could be used to assist the work of forensic scientists. If you are interested in working on this topic, please contact Dr Liam Satchell.
Who's a good police interviewer?
Information gathering interviewing is a vital part of police investigations. This highly important source of evidence gathering is fundamentally a social exercise, where a police officer has to create the right context and dynamic to maximise the information gathered. Whilst we are understanding the core elements of rapport building and interview dynamics more and more, there is a lack of research into how these techniques for good interviews might come across differently depending on the interviewer. We have statistical and theoretical tools and techniques to better identify the skill of particular interviewers. This research project would focus on how individuals' experience of core interviewing strategies might vary based on their demeanour, personality, and experience with interviewing. If you are interested in working on this topic, please contact Dr Liam Satchell.
Intersubjectivity, Shame and Guilt, and Psychoanalytic Understanding of Psychological Structures in Forensic Settings
The predominant research interest of Dr Jenny Kontosthenous is intersubjectivity within the forensic context and the effort to shift from analysing the individual to analysing the relationships between individuals. This includes (but it is not limited to) relational experiences during therapy. She is interested in exploring further the co-creation of narratives and the shared process of making meaning of past experiences within therapeutic communities and other forensic settings. Shame and guilt surrounding offending behaviour can have a severe impact on therapeutic engagement for individuals residing in forensic settings. Research contributions to validate existing shame-focussed therapeutic approaches (such as CFT) remain necessary, particularly in the areas of motivation to engage in treatment and self-sabotaging behaviours such as self-harm. A third research interest is the development of psychoanalytic understanding of psychological structures of the forensic settings, particularly in terms of the role of bureaucracy and delegation to the experts as defences in order to manage organisational anxiety. For more information, contact Dr Jenny Kontosthenous.
Dr Rachel Wilcock would be happy to supervise PhD students in any aspect of eliciting accurate evidence (interviewing and/or identification lineups) from vulnerable witnesses. She is particularly keen to look at alternative methods for supporting older witnesses over the age of 65 to give their best evidence. At present there is very little research examining what works best to maximise amount and quality of evidence given by older witnesses. If you are interested in working on these topics, please contact Dr Rachel Wilcock.
Obtaining Information from Children in Hospital Settings
Critical decisions made in hospital regarding diagnoses, the necessary next steps in examination, and treatment strategies often rely on patient histories. Determining what has happened to a child is also vital for ascertaining if police involvement is required. However, children’s developing ability to verbalise their experiences makes obtaining such information more difficult than it is with adults. Health practitioners do not receive standardised training for obtaining child patient histories, and practices differ. If you are interested in conducting research in this area, please contact Dr Genevieve Waterhouse.
Multiple Interviewing in Forensic Contexts
Oftentimes, victims and witnesses in the Criminal Justice System will be interviewed more than once about the suspected crime they have experienced. Reminiscence, or remembering new details at a later recall opportunity, has been shown to be a robust memory phenomenon in children and adults. However, Waterhouse, Ridley, Bull & Wilcock’s recent Study Space Analysis identifies some key areas where further research is required in order to create fully supported, evidence-based best practice guidelines. If you would like to work on filling these gaps and examining the impact of multiple or repeat interviews on testimony, please contact Dr Genevieve Waterhouse.
Rapport-Building in Investigative Interviews
Recent research has suggested that building and maintaining rapport with children in investigative interviews is challenging and does not always result in the desired outcomes. Rapport-building techniques should support children and teenagers to provide their most detailed, accurate testimony in the least traumatic way possible. Additionally, they should be practical and effective in the hands of a variety of interviewers. If you are interested in conducting research to evaluate existing practices, and develop and examine alternative options, please get in touch with Dr Genevieve Waterhouse.
Domestic Abuse and Rape Myths
Dr Genevieve Waterhouse would be happy to supervise PhD projects in the areas of domestic abuse, rape offences and rape myths. In particular, she is interested in supervising projects around coercive control, and the impact of rape myths in the Criminal Justice System. To discuss your ideas, please contact Dr Genevieve Waterhouse.