Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology
At the Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology we investigate methods to ensure accurate investigations, how to secure the most reliable information from witnesses, victims, suspects and sources, and how to identify when someone is lying.
We explore the most effective approaches for gathering reliable information in cross-cultural interactions, and how stress and challenging environments can affect cognitive performance in applied settings.
We work to improve the criminal justice system, looking at how prisons can be modernised to support offender management, rehabilitation and effective intervention to reduce re-offending. In a highly-stressful sector, we work to provide solutions and support for those struggling with post-traumatic stress.
Law enforcement agencies need to use the most effective methods to gather information about criminal activities. Evidence must balance the need to prosecute the guilty without putting innocent people at risk of a miscarriage of justice. But when crimes involve additional factors such as alcohol or stress, investigators need to understand the effects of these factors on how events are remembered.
Additionally, new tools and techniques — based on psychological science — help investigators obtain better intelligence, and gather information to promote greater security against risks from terrorism and emerging threats.
When offenders have served their sentence, they need effective rehabilitation programmes to reduce their likelihood of offending again — and to help them make a positive contribution to society. And personnel across all areas of the criminal justice system need support in dealing with occupational and post-traumatic stress that can have serious personal and organisational consequences.
Our research in this centre covers the Forensic and Legal Psychology area of expertise and looks at the following topics:
- Detecting deception
- Investigative interviewing
- Eyewitness identification
- Identifying cross-cultural factors in information elicitation
- Interviewing child witnesses
- False memories
- Memory in legal contexts
- Offender decision-making and interventions
- Offender resettlement / rehabilitation
- Former members of the armed services in the criminal justice system
- Domestic abuse interventions
- Offender risk assessment
- Offender decision-making
- Shame therapy with offenders
Virtual reality lab
Our virtual reality lab facilitates re-enactment of risky situations for offenders and non-offenders so we can assess decision-making and emotion as it happens.
Our interview suite consists of one-way observational facilities, discrete cameras and audio recording equipment. One room is set up to mimic a police interview room and is used for training in investigative techniques in criminal justice settings, such as gathering evidence from vulnerable witnesses, and undertaking research with offenders.
A second room is set up to mimic a lounge and is used for mock burglary scenarios, and exploring child behaviour in an informal environment.
Large observation suite
Our large observation suite has a versatile room with modular seating, one-way mirrors, digital video recording and remote audio-visual equipment. The suite has been used for all types of group observational work, including testing minority influence scenarios, deception studies and jury decision making.
Digital analysis and video editing suite
Our digital analysis and video editing suite has dedicated computing facilities that run video analysis software. A photo booth allows the researcher to take standard pictures for use in studies involving police line-ups and mugshots.
Applied cognition laboratory
Our applied cognition laboratory allows for simultaneous testing of multiple participants on computer-based experiments. Our smaller testing rooms allow for individual testing. We also have eye tracking laboratories.
Partnerships and funding
We have strong links with national and international police services, Her Majesty’s Probation and Prison Service (HMPPS), Special Hospitals, National insurance companies, Neighbourhood Watch, and the Offender Personality Disorder pathway.
Within our Professional Doctorate in Forensic Psychology, we have students on work placement in applied settings including HMPPS, the National Health Service (NHS), and ‘Together for Mental Wellbeing‘ Liaison and Diversion service.
Other partnerships include Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, Portsmouth City Council, and Care after Combat.
Our work has been funded by:
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
- Home Office
- British Academy
- Nuffield Foundation
- US Government
- Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats
- Royal Society
- Leverhulme Trust
- Metropolitan Police and Police Federation
- British Psychological Society
- Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS)
- Scottish Prison Service
We worked on this project with Lancaster University to research how memory and interpersonal behaviours play out within security contexts.
The aim of this project was to produce an evidence-based policy resource for cross-cultural interviewing for UK and international investigative practitioners. It was funded by the British Academy.
This project examined the effect of the identification medium on eyewitness decisions. It was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
This project aims to use simulated environments to understand offending behaviour, cognition and emotion in burglars. It is a collaboration between the University of Portsmouth, Vrije University and University of Twente in the Netherlands.
The objective of this project was to assess the impact of digital technology on the culture of prisons, and on prisoners’ ability to self-manage their behaviour and reoffending.
Our work has been published in the following journals:
- Law and Human Behaviour
- Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
- Psychology, Public Policy, and Law
- Psychological Science
- Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
- Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
- Legal and Criminological Psychology
- International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
- Aggression and Violent Behavior
- Psychology, Crime and Law