Psychology Applied To Law: 3 Must Read Studies

1 Aug

Whether you realize it or not, psychology plays a huge part in law enforcement. Applying psychology to criminal justice can increase your likelihood of settling a lawsuit, improving police efforts in your county, and even decreasing the recidivism rate in our country. July’s new applied psychology research includes predicting when a terrorist will attack and rethinking treatment of child delinquents and adolescent sex offenders.

1. Predicting When A Terrorist Will Attack

Researchers at Northwestern University have successfully found an alternative to waterboarding. Instead of torturing a terrorist to get information which may or may not be reliable, law enforcement officials can instead measure the terrorist’s brain waves.

Northwestern Professor J Peter Rosenfeld examined the brain waves of study participants who were asked to plan a terrorist attack. Rosenfeld found that when researchers knew the details of a mock terrorist attack, they were able to identify the “terrorists” and their attack plans with 100% accuracy. When researchers did not know the details of the mock terrorist attack, they were still able to identify 10 out of 12 “terrorists” and  20 out of 30 terrorist plan details.

This would be a great tool for CIA to use when they capture terrorists, especially if they have some knowledge of the terrorist and the attack plan beforehand. If you’re interested in learning more about the ethics of neurocriminology, I highly recommend watching this video:

Image via howstuffworks.

2. Childhood Delinquency In Adulthood

Once a criminal, always a criminal, right? Not necessarily according to a German study described in ScienceDaily. Philipps University in Marburg, Germany researchers Helmut Remschmidt and Reinhard Walter observed how frequently children (14 years old or younger) who were registered with the police for committing a crime went on to commit more crimes in adulthood. Remschmidt and Walter evaluated the children’s potential predictors for criminal behavior, and also followed a control group of non-delinquent children.

Remschmidt and Walter found that juvenile delinquents do not necessarily become criminals in adults. The best predictor of whether a delinquent child becomes a persistent criminal in adulthood are social and familial risk factors and certain personality types, such as emotional lability and nervousness. Besides male gender, early onset of aggressiveness, and having delinquent peers, which are specific to criminality, the same risk factors that determine mental illness were generally the predictors of criminality.

So instead of putting delinquent children into our revolving door system, how about we evaluate their living environment and get them effective mental help.

Image via MailOnline.

3. Stereotyping Adolescent Sex Offenders

An adolescent sex offender is often stereotyped as socially awkward, and that is what sex offender treatment is focused on as a result. However, new research described by NewsRx shows that, in fact, adolescent sex offenders are just as socially capable as their non-sex-offender peers.

University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada researchers Michael C. Seto and Martin Lalumiere analyzed 59 previous studies comparing a total of 3,855 male adolescent sex offenders to 13,393 of their non-sex-offender peers. Seto and Lalumiere found that adolescent sex offenders are just as socially capable as their peers.

Instead, adolescent sex offenders are characterized by having atypical sexual interests such desire for sex with children, rape, or voyeurism. They are also likely to have a history of sexual abuse, exposure to sexual violence in their family, and have an early exposure to sex or pornography.

So instead of teaching adolescent sex offenders how to approach a girl, how to deal with conflict, or how to read non-verbal communications, treatment programs need to focus on the offender’s sexual interests and sexual history.

Image via zazzle.

What are some other good examples of psychology applied to law?

Article image via SpinVox.

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