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Volume 12 Issue 2

Traumatic brain injury in the criminal justice system: Identification and response to neurological trauma

Horn, M. L., & Lutz, D. J.

A causal relationship between neurological trauma and criminality has yet to be established, but a correlation does appear to exist. It is estimated that as many as 87% of incarcerated individuals have experienced a traumatic brain injury. These injuries often are associated with behavioral and personality changes such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and aggression. This population also experiences higher rates of cognitive deficits such as memory loss and difficulty maintaining attention following their injuries. Traumatic brain injury currently is not being addressed on a wide scale within the justice system. This has created difficulties for this population as incarcerated individuals with head injuries frequently receive longer sentence lengths, have more rule infractions, and recidivate at higher rates than their peers. This article describes the unique challenges confronting this population while incarcerated and what changes can be made by correctional entities to help this group more successfully reintegrate into society.

The weapon focus effect: Testing an extension of the unusualness hypothesis

Carlson, C. A., Pleasant, W. E., Weatherford, D. R., Carlson, M. A., & Bednarz, J. E.

The weapon focus effect (WFE) occurs when a weapon distracts eyewitnesses, harming memory for the perpetrator and other details. One explanation is that weapons are unusual in most contexts, and unusual objects distract eyewitnesses. We extended this unusualness hypothesis to include typical objects used in a distinctive manner, as criminals often make use of a typical object as a weapon (e.g., tire iron, beer bottle). Undergraduates (N = 963) viewed a video depicting a man with a handgun, distinctive object, typical object and action, or typical object used as a weapon. Only the handgun reduced eyewitness identification accuracy relative to the typical object and action, replicating the WFE. Importantly, participants who reported high confidence after choosing from a lineup tended to be highly accurate, regardless of condition.

How much should the people know? Implications of methodological choices in the study of intentionality and blame ascriptions

Botero, M., Buccafurni-Huber, D., & Desforges. D.

Several studies have shown that people are more likely to attribute intentionality and blame to agents who perform actions that have harmful consequences. This kind of bias has problematic implications for jury decisions because it predicts that judgment in juries will malfunction if an action has a blameworthy effect. Most of these studies include in their design a vignette in which it is clear that agents have foreknowledge of the effects of their actions. This kind of design fails to replicate trial situations where, in most cases, it is impossible to know with certainty whether agents have foreknowledge of the effects of their actions. In the present study, we adopt an alternative design that includes vignettes in which there is no direct evidence of foreknowledge to investigate the relationship between intentionality and blame in actions that have harmful and helpful effects. We find that people are still more likely to attribute intentionality to actions that produce harmful effects than actions that produce good effects. However, we find that people tend to attribute more blame when they have direct evidence of foreknowledge than when presented with an alternative design that does not include foreknowledge. Results indicate the relevant role that evidence of foreknowledge plays in experimental designs that study blame attribution.

Looking bad: Inferring criminality after 100 milliseconds

Klatt, T., Maltby, J., Humphries, J.E. Smailes, H.L., Ryder, H., Phelps, M., & Flowe, H. D.

Research finds we make spontaneous trait inferences from facial appearance, even after brief exposures to a face (i.e., less than or equal to 100 ms). We examined spontaneous impressions of criminality from facial appearance, testing whether these impressions persist after repeated presentation (i.e., one to three exposures) and increased exposure duration (100, 500, or 1,000 ms) to the face. Judgement confidence and response times were recorded. Other participants viewed the faces for an unlimited period of time, rating trustworthiness, dominance and criminal appearance. We found evidence that participants spontaneously make criminal appearance attributions. These inferences persisted with repeated presentation and increased exposure duration, were related to trustworthiness and dominance ratings, and were made with high confidence. Implications are discussed.

In defense of "cop shop" pedagogy

Garner, R., & Lyons, P.

Within the discipline of Criminal Justice, the term "Cop Shop" is often pejoratively used in academic circles to describe a method of instruction based on story and personal experience that often conjures the image of an off-duty police officer telling war stories. However, often missing from this negative perspective is the recognition that experience based descriptions of events and the application of the constructs offered in class can provide an invaluable enhancement for the practitioner-focused student. The concept of such experienced-based application is discussed, and student evaluations of faculty with and without practitioner experience are analyzed.