Tuesday 5 October 2010

Crime & Psychology

Today was week 2 (of 10) of my crime & psychology course at the local 6th form college. There are about 16 of us and an odd demographic - mostly women, mostly middle-aged (as expected) but there are 3 young blokes. One I think is still at school/college.

Last week we were looking at the history of criminal profiling - how in the past your physical appearance could have a bearing over whether you might have criminal tendencies. Not much change there, you might say, but certain "scientists" believed that your body shape and even your ears could mean you harboured latent criminal tendencies!

This week, we talked about eyewitness testimony. Fascinating. Let's say you show a group of people a short video of two cars colliding. You ask them what speed they thought one car was doing when the cars collided. Then you repeat the process with a second group but this time you ask them "What speed were the cars doing when they smashed into each other?" The responses from the second group will be higher. It's amazing how much information you can almost subliminally implant by asking leading questions. Or how people make assumptions based on what they see, just to fit in with their "world view" and the brain then thinks this was what actually happened. So the whole purpose of "swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" becomes fundamentally flawed when everyone has their own version of the truth. I've spent time in court (with work, I might add) and I was always in awe of barristers who could argue black was white - and make you believe it! But then I once spent over 5 hours in the witness box reading out serial numbers, so it wasn't all excitement.

Next week we're doing psychopathy. Serious stuff!

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