· Police can tell when a suspect is lying
· People confess only when they have actually committed the crime they are being charged with
· Most judges and jurors fully understand court instructions
· Eye-witnesses are always the most reliable source of case-related information
· Most mentally ill individuals are violent
· All psychopaths are criminals
· We need to be ‘tough on crime’ by giving convicted felons harsher punishments
· The death sentence is an effective way to deter criminal activity
· Excitement improves memory
What do you think the right answer is to the above statements. Have a go before you — read on for the point.
Research has demonstrated that none of these statements is true, yet we found that, in our questionnaire of 50 true or false items just like this, our sample of police officers scored no better than the general public. Police officers got 39 per cent wrong and members of the public got 37 per cent wrong. The police seemed to know as little about these important policing issues as everybody else.
Why do police have such out-of-date psychological theories? By Julia Shaw who is a senior lecturer and researcher in the department of law and social sciences at London South Bank University. Her first book, The Memory Illusion, will be published in June.