Forensic Psychology - OCR Psychology

Turning to Crime, Reaching a Verdict and After a Guilty Verdict.



Forensic Psychology

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  • Disrupted Families - Farrington
  • Learning from Others - Sutherland
  • Disadvantaged Neighbourhoods - Wikstrom
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Disrupted Families - Farrington

Aim: To document the start, duration and end of offending behaviour from childhood to adulthood in families.

Method: Longitudinal survey

Participants: 411 boys  aged 8 and 9 who were born in 1953/55 from East London. The boys were were predominantly white working class. At age 48, 365 were interviewed.

Results: The most important risk factors at 8-10 for later offending are:

  • Family history of criminality
  • Daring of risk-taking personality was linked to personality/ability factors such as low IQ.
  • Low school attainment
  • Poverty
  • Poor parenting.

The most important risk factor that Farrington found was family history of criminality. If the participant's mother/father had a conviction, the probability of the participant being convicted was twice as high than if they did not have a parent with a conviction.

Conclusion: Early intervention programmes for under-10s could have significant impact in reducing offending.

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Farrington - Evaluation

Longitudinal Research

+ Allows us to see the development of behaviour over time, rich in-depth data is also obtained.

- High attrition rate. 411 initially gathered for the study only 365 participated in the study when they were 48.


+ Qualitative data gathered, can gather the views and opinions of participants.

- Social desirability bias - may lie about crimes committed.


- Unrepresentative, only males used.

- Cannot be generalised as only individuals from East London were used. 

+ Large sample used, representative of target group.

Reductionism vs. Holism

Can be considered reductionist as it only focuses on environmental factors such as family, upbringing, etc. However it also has holistic elements as it does consider personality elements such as IQ.

Determinism vs. Freewill

Determinist as people aren't able to choose where and into which social groups they are born into. Also elements of free will are applicable as individuals have the ability to choose whether to commit a crime or not.

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Learning from Others - Sutherland

Sutherland developed nine principles of criminal learning based on behaviourist psychology. He theorised that criminal behaviour is learned just like any other behaviour. Sutherland presented his theory in the form of 9 principles, here are a few:

  • Criminal behaviour is learnt - Sutherland believed that criminal behaviour was not inherited as a result of any biological condition.
  • Criminal behaviour is learned in interaction with other persons in a process of communication.
  • The principle part of learning criminal behaviour happens within intimate groups.
  • When criminal behaviour is learned, the learning includes techniques of committing the crime.


Sutherland's theory is based on two core assumptions:

1. Deviance occurs when people define a certain human situation as an appropriate occasion for violating social norms or criminal laws.

2. Definitions of the situation are acquired through an individual's history of past experience.

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Sutherland - Evaluation

Reductionism - Sutherland does not take biological factors in to account and assumes criminal activity is caused by the environment.

Ethnocentrism - Developed by western cultures to western ideals, cannot be generalised to different cultures as individuals may go through different processes when turning to crime.

Situational - Sutherland assumes that individuals turn to crime as a result of the environment that they are in and through social interactions.

Psychology as a Science - Doesn't take biological factors into account so it can be considered to be un-scientific, however Sutherland does discuss the possibility a mathematical equation to predict an individuals likelihood to turn to crime, however this is only theoretical at this stage.

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Disadvantaged Neighbourhoods - Wikstrom

Aim: To investigate why young people commit crime.

Method: Self-report

Sample: Nearly 2000 Year 10 students from Peterborough. 

Procedure: Questionnaires were distributed to the participants. 


  • Criminal behaviour of a less serious nature was common among the young people in the study with 38% reported having committed such offenses. Serious offending was much rarer.
  • They did not find that gender, social class, family type or ethnic background had a direct influence on adolescent offending.
  • The strongest predictors of offending were youths' social situations, personality and lifestyles.
  • Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds tended more often to have high risk factors which would make them more vulnerable to influences, such as peer pressure, which in turn may lead them into crime.

Conclusion: The findings suggested that there are 3 main types of adolescent offenders:

1) Situationally limited offenders - May occasionally offend if they have a risky lifestyle, unlikely to turn to a life of crime.

2) Lifestyle-dependent offenders - Likelihood of offending depends on whether their lifestyle frequently brings them into situations of risk.

3) Propensity-inducted offenders - This group is small and consists of youths who are poorly adjusted and likely to have a high level of overall offending.

The study recommended that families and schools might prevent young people from turning to crime by providing better supervision of children's free time.

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Wikstrom - Evaluation

Ethnocentrism - Can be considered to be ethnocentric as only children from Peterborough were used in the study. This means that the results gathered cannot be generalised to children who live in different areas around the UK and indeed the world.

Validity - Wikstrom's study can be considered to be low in validity as the self-report method was used. Social desirability bias may have occurred when participants were completing the questionnaires as they may have lied about any crimes they had committed to appear in a more socially acceptable light.

Reliability - Questionnaires used, standardised procedures, every student was given the identical questionnaires. 2000 participants used, exact amount of students know, can be reliable if replicating the study

Sample - A large sample was used in Wikstrom's study which consisted of around 2000 participants. 

Usefulness - Wikstrom's study can be seen as being useful as it allows us to see what type of individuals are more likely to commit crimes, as Wikstrom identified 3 groups who were most and least likely to commit crimes. Individuals within these groups can be identified and then given help to ensure that they don't turn to a life of crime.

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  • Thinking Patterns - Yochelson and Samenow
  • Moral Development - Kohlberg
  • Social Cognition - Gudjonsson
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Thinking Patterns - Yochelson and Samenow

Aims: To understand the make-up of the criminal personality.

Participants: 255 male participants from various backgrounds, black white, wealthy, poor etc.

Methodology: Longitudinal study conducted over 14 years using self-report.

Procedure: A series of interviews were conducted with participants over a period of 14 years, however most of the participants dropped out of the study as only 30 completed the programme of interviews. The programme consisted of Freudian-based therapy that attempted to find the root cause of their criminality. By discovering this and facing it, participants were then expected to improve their behaviour.

Findings: Yochelson and Samenow found that criminals displayed a series of traits which included, being super optimists, loving excitement, often fantasised about committing crime and they lacked empathy.

Conclusions: 52 faulty thinking patterns were distinguished in the criminal personality which were considered to be 'errors' in thinking. However it was not possible to determine whether these faulty thinking processes were displayed by non-criminals as no control group was used.

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Yochelson and Samenow - Evaluation

Ethnocentrism: Can be considered to be ethnocentric, conducted in the US.

Usefulness: Useful as it allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the criminal personality and the types of behaviours criminals exhibit.

Psychology as a Science: Does not support Psychology as a Science as it studies non-observable behaviour, i.e. thinking patterns. Furthermore, qualitative data was collected from the interviews with the criminals which is not classified as scientific as it is subjective and open to interpretation.

Reliability: Low in reliability as semi-structured interviews were used, hard to replicate exactly.

Validity: Self-report was used where participants were interviewed. Social desirability bias may occur. Furthermore, a control group was not used in Yochelson and Samenow's study. It is impossible to see if non-criminals exhibit these behaviours as well as criminals.

Ecological Vailidty: High as real criminals were used.

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Moral Development - Kohlberg

Aim: To find evidence in support of a progression through stages of moral development.

Participants: 58 boys from Chicago of working and middle class, aged between 7 and 16. (Some of the boys were followed up and the study was repeated in a variety of countries including the UK, Mexico and Turkey.)

Methodology: Self-report.

Procedure: Each boy was given a 2 hour interview with 10 dilemmas they had to solve, including the 'Heinz dilemma'. Kohlberg was not interested in the answer to the dilemmas, but in the reasoning behind the participant's decision.


  • Younger boys tended to perform better at stages 1 and 2, pre-moral stage.
  • Older boys performed better at stages 3 and 4, conventional morality, suggesting support for development through stages.

Conclusion: There does seem to be support across cultures for the stage theory.

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Kohlberg - Evaluation

Longtudinal Research: Longitudinal research was used in Kohlberg's study. This allows us to study moral development over a long period of time, however it can be expensive to conduct research that lasts for such a long period of time.

Validity: Low in validity as self-report was used, social desirability bias may have occurred.

Nature vs. Nurture: Kohlberg suggested that everyone goes through his 6 stages of moral development. Research also suggests that results were the same across cultures, demonstrating that moral development is a innate in all of us.

Determinism vs. Freewill: Deterministic as Kohlberg suggests that we all go through stages of moral development.

Reductionism: Only looks at moral development as an explanation of crime, doesn't consider social or environmental factors into account.

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Social Cognition - Gudjonsson

Aim: To examine the relationship between the type of offence and the attributions offenders make about their criminal acts.

Participants: 80 criminals serving sentences in Northern Ireland for either violent crimes, sexual assaults or property offences.

Method: Self-report using a Blame Attribution Inventory.


  • People who committed sexual assaults felt guiltier than those who had committed other crimes.
  • Those who had committed sexual acts gave lower external scores, meaning that external factors were not to blame for their crimes.
  • Those who committed violent crimes such as GBH blamed external factors more than those who had committed property offenses or sexual crimes.

Conclusion: There is a strong consistency in the way offenders attribute blame for their crimes.

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Gudjonsson - Evaluation

Ethnocentrism: Only prisoners in Northern Ireland were featured in Gudjonsson's study. The results gathered cannot be applied to other prisoners from different countries or from different cultures.

Self-report: Social desirability bias may have occurred where prisoners lied about the levels of guilt and the attribution of blame they placed on an event to appear more socially desirable.

Quantitative data: Was collected in Gudjonsson's study, allows for statistical comparison, however we aren't able to determine why the criminal attributed blame to external or internal factors.

Reductionism vs. Holism: Can be considered to be holistic as Gudjonsson takes a variety of crime in to consideration such as violent crimes, sexual crimes and theft and a variety of factors which may have led to the crime, i.e. external and internal factors.

Usefulness: Gudjonsson's study can be seen to be useful as it can be used to aid an individuals rehabilitation and help individuals accept blame for the crimes they have committed, however some individuals may not be able to accept guilt or show any remorse because of mental health issues.

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  • Brain Dysfunction - Raine
  • Genes and Serotonin - Brunner
  • Gender - Daly and Wilson
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Brain Dysfunction - Raine

Aim: To identify areas of brain dysfunction in individuals charged with murder but found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Method: Quasi experiment in a laboratory.

Participants: 41 murderers, all had been charged with murder or manslaughter, who all pleaded guilty by reason of insanity. A control group of volunteers was used, matched by age.

Procedure: Participants were given PET scans whilst participating in tasks which aimed to activate certain areas of the brain. 

Findings: The PET scans showed that the 'murderers' had reduced activation in regions of the brain that were known to be implicated in aggression (prefrontal cortex and the corpus callosum).

Conclusion: Raine et al. were cautious about the implications of their findings: The findings do not show that those who plead not guilty by reason of insanity are not responsible for their actions.

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Raine - Evaluation


+ High in ecological validity as the I.V occurs naturally

- Low in reliability as it is difficult to control all of the extraneous variables that may affect the outcome.


+ Large sample, murderers who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity are quite scarce so 41 is a reasonable sample size.

- All of the participants come from the US, ethnocentric.

Reductionist: Only takes biological factors into account as being responsible for crime, however Raine states that the findings do not show that NGRIs are not responsible for their actions, meaning that other factors may be involved in the decision making process for turning to crime.

Psychology as a Science: Supports psychology as a science as brain scans were taken with help from a PET scanner. This provides object and quantitative data.

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Genes and Serotonin - Brunner

Aim: Brunner aimed to explain the behaviour of a large family in the Netherlands where the males were affected by a syndrome of borderline mental retardation and abnormal violent behaviour. These included impulsive aggression, arson, attempted **** and exhibitionism.

Methodology: Physiological measures were used, data collected from an analysis of urnine samples.

Participants: 5 affected males from the family.

Results: The tests showed disturbed monoamine metabolism associated with the deficit of the enzyme MAOA (MAOA is involved in serotonin metabolism).


  • The defect in the gene leading to a deficit of MAOA is likely to be responsible for the mental retardation in the family and in turn the violent behaviour.
  • Brunner concluded that too much serotonin may be linked to aggression as well as too little serotonin.
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Brunner - Evaluation

Does this prove that genes determine crime?

No as there is not enough evidence yet and the science behind this area is still in its early stages. This study offers suggestions but no very strong answers.

Furthermore, not all the males in this study were affected by the violent behaviour, even when they suffered the mental retardation.


Psychology as a Science: Supports and provides evidence for the debate as physiological methods such as urine samples were collected which provide highly scientific and objective data, however they lack validity.

Ethnocentrism: Ethnocentric as participants were all from the Netherlands.

Nature vs. Nurture: Supports the nature side of the argument as it suggests that violent behaviour is caused by biological factors, i.e the MAOA deficit.

Reductionist: Brunner only considers biological factors as being responsible for the family's violent behaviour.

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Gender - Daly and Wilson

Aim: To examine gender and age patterns in crime of violence.

Method: Snapshot - Data analysis in homicide cases.

Procedure: This study reviewed homicidal conflicts in Detroit in 1972, analysing age and sex of perpetrators and victims.

Results: The study found that homicide was an overwhelmingly male affair. It found that most homicides concerned status competition (showing off, jealousy retaliation). Wilson and Daly also argued that other sorts of risk taking behaviours such as daredevilry and gambling were overwhelmingly masculine pursuits facilitated by peers pursuing the same goals.

Conlcusion: Daly and Wilson place their findings firmly in the evolutionary framework.  The evolutionary theory is that different selective pressures produce distinct male and female behavioural strategies, the more intense the competition for females among males, the more males are inclined to use risky tactics, increasing male mortality.

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Daly and Wilson - Evaluation

Determinism vs. Freewill and Reductionism: The study excludes external factors as being responsible for aggression. It assumes that gender determines the likelihood an individual will turn to crime and doesn't consider an individual as having an element of free will over the matter.

Ethnocentrism: Only homicidal conflicts from Detroit were used in this study. Detroit is a city known for its high levels of crime and individuals may commit crimes for different reasons from other cities and countries across the world.


+ Allows for large amounts of data to be gathered relatively quickly.

- Doesn't allow you to observe the development of behaviour over time.

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Reaching a Verdict

  • Pursuading a Jury
  • Witness Appeal
  • Reaching a Verdict
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Order of Testimony - Pennington and Hastie

Aim: To investigate whether or not story evidence summaries are true causes of the final verdict decisions and the extent to which story order affects confidence in those decisions.

Methodology: Laboratory experiment.

Participants: 130 students from Northwestern University and Chicago University. 

Procedure: Participants allocated to 1 of 4 conditions. All participants listened to a tape recording of a trial and then responded to written questions. Then asked to reach a guilty or non-guilty verdict and rate their confidence in their decision on a 5-point scale. Separated by partitions - no interaction with one another.

 Story order condition, evidence arranged in natural order. Witness order condition, evidence arranged in the order closest to the original trial.

Results: 69% GV = Story Order 47% GV = Witness Order. So, when prosecution evidence was presented in an order that made a story easy to construct, participants were more likely to present a guilty verdict

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Pennington and Hastie - Evaluation

Laboratory Experiment: Conducted under highly controlled conditions, allows for the control of extraneous variables, however the environment used was artificial so therefore lacks ecological validity.

Ethnocentrism: Only students used from Chicago and Northwestern universities were used.

Usefulness: The findings could be applied to real court cases where the judge to draw the juries attention to the fact that they are more likely to remember evidence given first and those who give story based evidence.

Ecological Validity: Jurors know that the trial will not have a negative outcome an an individual and so may not put as much thought in to reaching a decision as they might have if they were in a real court case.

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Persuasion - Loftus

Aim: To investigate the influence of expert testimony about eyewitness identification on jurors.

Method: Laboratory Experiment.

Participants: Experiment 1: 360 students from the University of Washington across both experiments.             

Procedure Experiment 1: Assigned to either a condition where expert psychological terminology was read by the defence or not. Within these conditions, half read a violent version of the crime, half did not. (Expert testimony about the inaccuracy of identifing those from other races.)

Results Experiment 1: Expert tesimony reduced guilty verdicts from 58% to 39%. Fewer guilty verdicts in the non-violent version of the crime.

Procedure Experiment 2: All participants read the violent version of the crime. Put in groups and asked to deliberate and then asked for a group verdict. Half of the group read expert terminology and half did not.

Results Experiment 2: When expert testimony was heard, conviction rate was lower.

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Loftus - Evaluation

Ethnocentrism: Only students used from the University of Washington, results may not be applicable to the wider population.

Individual vs. Situational: Situational as the presence of the expert witness in Loftus's study affected the result given by the jury.

Usefulness: Highlights how important and decisive expert witnesses can be in court cases. Can be used by those in court to help them succeed in their case.

Laboratory experiment: 

+ Highly controlled lab conditions were used in Loftus's study which makes the study highly replicable.

- Low in ecological validity as a real court case would allow both the defence and the prosecution to present evidence from an expert witness, however in Loftus's study only the defence were allowed to present evidence.

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Inadmissible Testimony - Pickel

Aim: To investigate the influence on jurors of testimony ruled inadmissible by a judge.

Participants: 236 Ball State University psychology students.

Methodology: Laboratory Experiment

Procedure: Participants listened to an audio recording of a fictional trial for theft. At one point a witness refers to the defendant as having previous convictions for theft. The defence lawyer objects that this is inadmissible evidence. A control group heard the trial without inadmissible evidence.

Results: Mock jurors who head the evidence ruled inadmissible and who received no legal explanation were able to follow instructions and ignore the evidence, however those who heard the evidence ruled inadmissible and were given a legal explanation were more likely to find the defendant guilty and were clearly not able to disregard it.

Conclusion: Calling attention to inadmissible evidence makes it more important to the jury and they then pay more attention to it.

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Pickel - Evaluation

Ecological Validity: Low in ecological validity as real jurors may have followed the judges instructions more conscientiously, knowing that the defendants future was in their hands. Furthermore an audio recording of a trial was used, this lacks ecological validity.

Laboratory Experiment: 

+ Highly controlled, allows for the control of extraneous variables.

- Lacks ecological validity as the jurors knew that the court case was not real.

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Witness Appeal

  • Attractiveness of the defendant - Castellow
  • Witness Confidence - Penrod and Cutler
  • Effects of Shields and Videotape on children giving evidence - Ross
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Attractiveness of the Defendant - Castellow

Aim: To investigate the effects of physical attractiveness of the defendant and the plaintiff on jury decision-making.

Methodology: Laboratory Experiment

Participants: 145 psychology undergraduates from the University of East Carolina who participated for course credits.

Procedure: Participants read a summary of a mock trial where a young secretary accused her boss of sexual harassment. they were shown photographs of the victim and the defendant which had previously been rated on a scale of 1-9 on attractiveness. Participants were asked to rate the defendant on 11 bipolar scales such as dull-exiting, nervous calm, warm-cold.

Results: (Physically attractive individuals were rated positively on personality variables ('Halo Effect'.) When the victim was attractive, guilty verdicts were found 77% of the time, 55% of the time for the unattractive victim. When the defendant was attractive, guilty verdicts were found 56% of the time compared to 76% for an unattractive defendant.

Conclusion: The findings show that appearance in court does have a powerful effect.

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Castellow - Evaluation

Ecological Validity: Students from the University of East Carolina were used, this is not a representative sample of a real jury as these students will all be of similar age, unlike juries and will have prior psychology experience.

Determinism: Assumes that those who are attractive will be found innocent.

Reductionist: Only considers attractiveness affects a guilty/not guilty verdict.


+ Quick easy and cheap to conduct (course credits used instead of real money).

- Doesn't show the influence of court proceedings over time as court cases sometimes last a number of weeks or even months.

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Witness Confidence - Penrod and Cutler

Aim: To examine several factors, including confidence that jurors might consider when evaluating evidence.

Methodology: A laboratory experiment using a mock-trial scenario.

Participants: 129 eligible and experienced jurors, as well as students from Wisconsin, USA.

Procedure: Participants viewed a videotaped trail that involved an eyewitness identifying an armed robber. D.V = robber guilty or not. This was recorded using a questionnaire. A number of I.Vs were manipulated that were associated with the crime, these included:

  • Disguise - Heavily or lightly disguised?
  • Weapon Focus - Was the weapon clearly visible or hidden?
  • Retention interval - 2 days or 2 weeks ago?
  • Witness confidence - did the witness claim to be 100% or only 80% certain they had identified the robber correctly?

Results: Witness confidence was the only statistically significant effect of these I.Vs. High witness confidence resulted in a 67% conviction rate whilst low witness confidence resulted in a 60% conviction rate.

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Penrod and Cutler - Evaluation

Ethnocentrism: Only participants were used from Wisconsin, USA. As a result the results are less generalisable.

Ecological Validity: Low in ecological validity, a videotaped trial was used.

Holism: Takes a variety of variables into account as being responsible when jurors are examining eyewitness identification evidence such as whether the suspect had any weapons, was heavily disguised etc.

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Shields and Videotape Testimony - Ross

Aim: To find out if protective shields and videotaped testimony increases the likelihood of a guilty verdict and to find out if protective devices cause credibility inflation or deflation.

  • Inflation: More believable because the child is not distressed.
  • Deflation: Child's testimony is seen as unreliable because of the video/screen.

Participants: 300 college students taking an introductory psychology course, divided into 3 conditions.

Methodology: Mock-trial based on an actual court transcript. Actors played the parts of the witnesses and lawyers and a film crew recorded the mock-trial. Three versions created:

  • Control - child witness in full view
  • Screen Condition - child witness behind a one way screen
  • Video Condition - child gave evidence via a video link from another room

The trial involved a father, accused of improperly touching the child while bathing and whether the touch was innocent or sexual in nature. Participants rated the defendant as innocent/guilty.

Results: There was no significant difference between conditions with all three conditions returning similar guilty figures, at around 50%.

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Ross - Evaluation

Sample: Unrepresentative of jurors as only college students were used.

Ecological Validity: Low in ecological validity as there are no consequences to the jurors actions, however the case was based on a real transcript.

Reductionism vs. Holism: Looks at a variety of ways that the juries  judgements can be affected, screen, video etc. 

Psychology as a Science: Quantitative data collected - asked to return either a guilty or not guilty verdict. Can be analysed statistically and eliminates researcher bias.

Usefulness: Can help in improving and finding the best and most reliable way of gathering testimony from child witnesses.

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Reaching a Verdict

  • Stages and Influences in Decision Making - Hastie
  • Majorty Influence - Asch
  • Minority Influence - Moscovici
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Stages and Influences in Decision Making - Hastie

Aim: To examine the stages a jury goes through to reach a verdict.

Orientation Period

  • Relaxed and open discussion
  • Set the agenda
  • Raise questions and explore facts

Open Confrontation

  • Fierce debate
  • Focus on detail
  • Pressure the minority to conform


  • Attempts to smooth over conflicts, usually through humour.

Conclusion: Hastie's decision making stages seem to fit the behaviour of mock-juries very well, the assumption being made is that real juries behave in the same manner.

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Hastie - Evaluation

Ethnocentrism: Based on a U.S jury mock data and the U.S legal system. Whilst in the U.S juries may conform to Hastie's three stages, this may differ in different countries with different legal systems.

Determinism: Set in stages, doesn't allow for any aspect of free will.

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Majority Influence - Asch

Aim: To investigate the effects of conformity to a majority when the task is unambiguous.

Methodology: A laboratory experiment.


  • A participant was placed at a table with 6 confederates.
  • They were shown a card with a single line on it and another with lines A,B and C on it.
  • They were asked which line length matched the original line.
  • Confederates gave blatantly wrong answers.

Results: Asch found that individuals conformed in one out of three occasions.

Link to Juries?

Asch's study can be linked to juries as it highlights the effect of majority influence. During the deliberation process jurors may be more likely to agree with the verdicts of their colleagues, even if they think they are wrong so they don't stand out from the group. If they see others agreeing, they may believe they are incorrect and agree to be correct.

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Asch - Evaluation

Laboratory Experiment:

+ High in reliability, allows for the control of extraneous variables.

- Lacks ecological validity, under normal circumstances you would not be required to complete a task where you would have to compare a set of line with another.

Situational vs. Individual: Supports the situational hypothesis as it highlights how the decisions of others around you can influence your own decision.

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Minority Influence - Moscovici

Aim: To see if a consistent minority of participants could influence a majority to give the wrong answer in a colour perception test.

Participants: 172 female participants, no colour blindness, all American.

Procedure: 6 participants at a time were asked to estimate the colour of slides. All of the slides were blue of differing brightness. 2 of the 6 participants were confederates. There were two conditions:

  • Consistent: The 2 confederates called the slides green on all of the trials
  • Inconsistent: The 2 confederates called the slide green two-thirds of the time.

Results: Participants in the consistent condition yielded and called the slides green approximately 8% of the time whilst participants in the inconsistent condition only identified the slide as green approximately 1% of the time.

Conclusion: It is important that those in the minority behave consistently if they are to influence the majority to change its viewpoint.

Relation to Juries: Moscovici's study highlights how, during deliberation, jurors are able to influence their colleagues by being consistent in their views.

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Moscovici - Evaluation

Laboratory experiment:

+ High levels of control, allows for extraneous variables to be controlled, i.e. colour blindness.

- Lacks ecological validity, it is unusual to be asked to compare the colour tones of shapes.

Sample: All of the participants were females, low in generalisability as the results gathered cannot be applied to males.

Ethics: Deception, the participants were not aware that 2 of their colleagues were confederates.

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After a Guilty Verdict

  • Imprisonment
  • Alternatives to Imprisonment
  • Treatment Programmes
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  • Planned behaviours once released - Gillis and Nafekh
  • Depression/Suicide risk in prison - Palmer and Connelly
  • The prison situation - Zimbardo
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Planned behaviours - Gillis and Nafekh

Aim: To investigate the effect on recidivism rates of a community-based employment scheme.

Methodology: Longitudinal research

Participants: 23.525 offenders from Canada, 95% of whom were male. Matched on a range of factors including age, gender, sentence length etc. Offenders were divided into two groups, those employed prior to release on a special employment programme and and those who had not been employed.

Results: At the end of the study, 70% of the employed group remained on conditional release compared to 55% of the unemployed group and of those that did re-offend in the employment group, the time taken for them to re-offend was longer.

Conclusion: Being on an employment programme can play a significant role in reducing recidivism rates.

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Gillis and Nafekh - Evaluation

Ethnocentrism: Gillis and Nafek's study can be seen as being ethnocentric as all of the 23,525 participants were from Canada and serving sentences in Canada's penal system. This means that the results gathered may not be applicable to those from different countries, serving time in different penal systems.

Reductionist: Only considers employment as a factor which reduces employment rates. Fails to take into account factors such as social situation, i.e. if the individual associates with friends who also commit crime.

Useful: Gillis and Nafek's study can be considered to be useful as it highlights the effect that employment schemes have in reducing recidivism rates. Can be used by prisons to implement such schemes.

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Depression and Suicide Risk - Palmer and Connelly

Aim: To compare depressive characteristics of prisoners who report previous self-harm and those who do not.

Method: Self-report

Participants: 48 prisoners, all adult males from England. 24 reported self-harm, 24 had not. Each prisoner was assessed on 3 of the following scales on their arrival to prison.

Procedure: (Tests administered orally if the prisoner had low literacy levels)

  • Beck Hopelessness Scale
  • Beck Depression Inventory
  • Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation

Results: On all of the tests vulnerable prisoners scored higher than the control group. Prisoners with a history of self-harm were more likely to have higher scores on the three tests than those without.

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Palmer and Connelly - Evaluation

Usefulness: Prisoners were assessed when they arrived at prison. This can seen as being useful as it allows us to identify vulnerable prisoners who will be at most risk and they can therefore be targeted for treatment and assistance.

Ethnocentrism: All 48 prisoners were from England. The results cannot be applied to those from different countries and cultures.


+ Allows the prisoner to give their own thoughts and opinions to the researcher.

- Social desirability bias may occur, especially in prisoners who were unable to read the Beck scales and had to have them administered orally by a researcher. They may feel embarrassed by their suicidal thoughts and try to cover them up by lying to the researcher.

Holism: A variety of different Beck scales were used to assess prisoners' depressive and suicidal tendencies.

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The Prison Situation and Roles - Zimbardo

Aim: To investigate how readily people would conform to the roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise that simulated a real prison environment.

Method: Field experiment, self-selected sampling where participants replied to an advertisement and were paid for their participation.

Participants: 21 male students from Stanford University.

Procedure: Prisoners were subject to taunts and aggressive behaviour from the prison guards. Prisoners were forced to undertake humiliating tasks such as cleaning toilets and were forced to wear paper bags over their heads. They were frequently woken in the middle of the night by the guards and the prisoners seemed to show no allegiance to one another. Gradually deindividuation began to happen where prisoners saw themselves as a number rather than a person.

Findings: The study showed how power corrupts and how the situation has the power to greatly affect an individuals behaviour: 'the evil place won over the good people' - Zimbardo

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Zimbardo - Evaluation

Field experiment: 

+ High in ecological validity as prisoners were arrested from their houses by police officers and the prison environment constructed was reasonably realistic.

- Low in reliability as it is difficult to control extraneous variables.

Ethnocentrism: Only students from Standford University were used. The results gathered cannot be applied to those from different countries of cultures.

Sample: Only students used, not representative of the whole prison and guard population.

Ethics: A variety of ethical guides were broken in Zimbardo's prison experiment including: protection from harm and informed consent however Zimbardo argues that the study would lack validity if it was ethical.

Reductionist: Zimbardo's study only takes environmental factors into account for being repsonsible for an andividuals behaviour. (Also supports the situational hypothesis)

Quantitative Data: Allows for rich, in-depth data to be gathered from prisoners, however lacks objectivity due to researcher bias.

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Alternatives to Imprisonment

  • Probation - Mair and May
  • Restorative Justice - Sherman and Strang
  • Looking 'deathworthy' - Eberhardt
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Probation - Mair and May

Aim: To investigate the experience of offenders on probation across England and Wales.

Participants: 3299 offenders who were chosen at random, a range of ages and offences.

Procedure: A survey of offenders chosen at random, only 1213 participants were interviewed with around 40% dropping out of the study (mainly from London). Interviews were conducted by independent researchers, questions were mainly closed, likert and multiple choice. Questions were designed to gain information about the respoondents' backgrounds, their offending history and experiences while serving the probation service.

Findings: An average of 47% of the sample felt that probation was very useful, with 37% saying that probation would stop them re-offending altogether.

Conclusions: The majority of those who participated expressed positive opinions about their experience of probation and their treatment by probation officers, however nearly a third of offenders went on to re offend.

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Mair and May - Evaluation


Offenders from England and Wales were only used in Mair and May's study, the results gathered may not be applicable to other countries as they may have different probation systems in place to those in England and Wales, however it can be argued that it would be time consuming and expensive to conduct the study in a number of different countries.


Closed questions used in Mar and May's study, provides quantitative data which allows for statistical comparison, however we do not get their reasons for committing the crime. 


+ Allows for the criminals to give their own opinions on the probationary system.

- Social desirability may occur where criminals want to present themselves as 'reformed' after their conviction.

Usefulness: Highlights the effectiveness of probation on individuals, however 40% of individuals dropped out of the study, many whom may have gone on to commit a crime, does not give us a representative view of probation on the whole.

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Restorative Justice - Sherman and Strang

Aim: To look at restorative justice in practice and measure its effectiveness in terms of re-offending.

Methodology: A review article carried out on academic papers on restorative justice in the UK and internationally. Collected using an Internet search. 36 studies were found that compared re-offending rates for those who were part of restorative justice programmes and those who were not.

Findings: Reductions in offending rates were found for violent and property crimes but restorative justice did not work in all cases. It was found to be more effective for cases with a personal victim.

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Sherman and Strang - Evaluation


Sherman and Strang's study can be considered to be useful as it highlights which cases restorative justice works best in, however as secondary data was gathered, there could be issues with validity in the 36 studies that were analysed which would limit the usefulness of the research.

Helps both the victim and offender.

Psychology as a Science/Quantitative data:

Quantitative data gathered, allows for statistical comparison, however does not give us meaning behind figures, i.e 'why is restorative justice more successful in cases with a personal victim?'

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Looking 'Deathworthy' - Eberhardt

Aim: To investigate whether there was support for the hypothesis that black offenders with stereotypically black features are more likely to get the death sentence than white offenders.

Methodology: Laboratory experiment 

Participants: 51 raters from Stanford University, mixed ethnicites.

Procedure: An analysis of the database of death-eligible cases in Philadelphia. In 44 cases a black man had murdered a white victim. Photographs of these 44 were shown to naïve raters who were asked to rate their facial features on a rating scale of 1-11, 11 being very stereotypically black.

Findings: The most stereotypically black offenders were approximately 57% more likely to receive the death penalty than the less stereotypical defendants at approximately 24%.

Conclusion: Black physical traits are associated with criminality, and in this case it appears that they influence sentencing decisions.

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Eberhardt - Evaluation


Only students from Stanford were used to judge the appearance of the individuals on trial. These students may have had a different interpretation of an individuals with 'sterotypically black' features than someone who was older.


This study suggests that it is an individual's physical traits that affects the likelihood of receiving a death sentence and that this is already pre-determined and unaffected by any aspect of free-will.

Ecological Validity:

Judges would not be looking at photographs of the defendant in a real court case, they would be able to see them - lacks ecological validity.


Can be used as evidence for campaigners to fight for the cause to abolish the death penalty.

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Treatment Programmes

  • Cognitive skills programmes - Cann
  • Anger management - Ireland
  • Ear acupuncture - Margolin
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Cognitive Skills Programmes - Cann

Aim: To find out if cognitive skills programmes were effective in terms of lower re-offending rates for a sample of women prisoners.

Sample: 180 offenders who started enhanced thinking skills (ETS) or Reasoning and Rehabilitation (R&R). The comparison group comprised of 540 female offenders who did not participate in these programmes. All offenders were discharged 1996-2000 and spent at least a year in the community.

Methodology: Quasi-experiment

Procedure: Re-conviction rates were calculated for 1 and 2 years after release, both ETS and R&R were examined for effectiveness.

Findings: No significant differences were discovered between the treatment and non-treatment groups re-conviction rate. This could be because the treatment programmes were developed for males and females usually commit crimes for different reasons, i.e. to support their family, and substance abuse.

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Cann - Evaluation


A relatively small sample of 180 female offenders was used for this tudy, furthermore the results gathered are not applicable to males.


All of the participants were from the UK.

Situation vs. Individual:

Cann's study looked at correcting individual thinking patterns, however this proved ineffective, so maybe situation factors have more of an effect or re-offending.


Allows us to determine the effectiveness of male treatments on females. Cann's study highlights how male treatment programmes aren't always applicable to females.

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Anger Management - Ireland

Aim: To analyse the effectiveness of an anger management programme on the behaviour and attitudes of young male offenders.

Method: Quasi-experiment

Sample: 50 young male offenders who had completed a CALM (Controlling Anger and Learning to Manage it) course and a group of 37 who wee assessed as suitable but had not taken the course.

Procedure: All participants were assessed 2 weeks prior to the start of the course and were reassessed 8 weeks after the course, while the control group remained on a waiting list for intervention. Prisoners were given a cognitive behavioural interview where they were asked about their feeling of anger. They were also assessed for aggressive behaviour by prison staff using the Wing Behavioural Checklist (WBC).

Findings: Pre/post analysis showed a significant reduction in the treatment group in both self-report anger feelings and in guard observation of aggressive behaviours. In the experimental group 92% of offenders showed improvement on at least one of the measures (self-report on aggressive behaviour or WBC) however 8% showed no improvement on both measures and even deteriorated in some cases.

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Ireland - Evaluation

Quasi Experiment: 

+ High in ecological validity as the I.V occurs naturally and is not manipulated.

- Lack of control of extraneous variables which may have affected the prisoner's results such as interaction with prisoners etc.


Only young males were used in Ireland's study. The results cannot be generalised to older males and female prisoners who may react differently to the CALM treatment.

Validity: High in concurrent validity as both prisoners and guards completed self-reports on the progress of prisoners. However low in internal validity as social desirability bias may have occurred. Prisoners may have acted as they did because of incentives for good behaviour, i.e. parole privileges.

Usefulness: CALM has been proven to work as 92% of the prisoners showed improvement on at least one of the measures in Ireland's study. Can be used to maintain a non-aggressive prison environment.

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Ear Acupuncture - Margolin

Aim: To investigate the effectiveness of ear acupuncture as a treatment for cocaine addiction.

Sample: 620 cocaine-dependent adult patients, 69% male from various US states.

Procedure: Patients assigned to either:

  • Ear acupuncture (experimental)
  • Needle insertion - needle inserted randomly into ear (control)
  • Relaxation - watched relaxing videos (control)

Treatments were offered 5 times per week for 8 weeks and financial incentives were provided for attending as well as drug counselling.

Effectiveness of treatment measured by: retention in treatment; use of cocaine during treatment; urine samples; self-report of cocaine use as well as a structured interview at the end of the course.

Results: Cocaine use declined across all conditions during treatment but there was no significant difference between ear acupuncture and the control conditions.

Conclusion: The use of ear acupuncture on addictions proved no better than any other form of treatment such as relaxation methods.

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Margolin - Evaluation


High in concurrent validity as two methods to gather data were used, self-report and physiological measures (urine samples).


Can be considered to be ethnocentric as only participants from the US were used.


Low in reliability as a variety of extraneous variables which would have affected the results that were not accounted for as the participants were allowed to attend the sessions in their own time and return home where they may have been exposed to cocaine. However standardised procedures were in place, for example all participants received the same types of treatment.

Psychology as a Science:

  Physiological methods used to collect data, i.e. urine samples. Physiological measures collect highly objective quantitative data which allows for statistical comparison to take place.

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Really helpful source, thanks.

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