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Psychology, Public Policy, and Law - Vol 23, Iss 3

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Psychology, Public Policy, and Law Psychology, Public Policy, and Law focuses on the links between psychology as a science and public policy and law.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • Does it help, hurt, or something else? The effect of a something else response alternative on children’s performance on forced-choice questions.
    Forensic guidelines recommend minimizing forced-choice questions when interviewing children. We investigated whether adding a “something else” alternative to forced-choice questions affected 3- to 5-year-olds’ (N = 94) reports of an event involving innocuous touch. Following a 1-week delay, children were randomly assigned to receive either standard 2-alternative forced-choice questions or the same questions with an additional something else alternative. All children received 3 counterbalanced question types: correct alternative present, no correct alternative present, and unanswerable. Children’s overall accuracy was not affected by the something else alternative except on questions with no correct alternative present, where performance went from 15% to 31% accurate. Children selected or generated inaccurate and speculative responses to the majority of unanswerable questions regardless of a something else alternative. These findings suggest that the inclusion of a something else alternative does not bypass concerns about the use of forced-choice questions during interviews with children. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The ability to detect false statements as a function of the type of statement and the language proficiency of the statement provider.
    The ability to detect deception is critical in criminal and investigative contexts. Society continues to become more diverse as international travel becomes more commonplace; as such, it has never been so essential to understand the potential impact of speakers’ language proficiency on assessing their credibility. Recently, deception researchers have turned their attention to statements provided by nonnative English speakers, thus far yielding inconsistent results. To further investigate this issue, community members, who were classified into 4 English proficiency groups (i.e., fluent, higher proficiency, medium proficiency, and lowest proficiency), provided 4 statements. These included true and false statements that were autobiographical, and true and false statements that were opinion centered. Observers rated the likelihood that these speakers were being truthful or deceptive. Observers’ accuracy and discrimination were best for the lowest-proficiency speakers; the other proficiency groups did not differ from each other. This suggests that lie detection is more effective when speakers provide statements in their nonnative language. However, relative to fluent English speakers there was a smaller truth bias for the lowest-proficiency speakers, which suggests that if nonnative speakers provide their statements in their nonnative language they may be judged as more deceptive than their native-speaker counterparts. Overall the present findings highlight the need for additional research, given the disparate results in the literature and the lack of clear policies regarding how nonnative speakers’ credibility should be assessed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Police officers’ ability to detect lies within a deception paradigm.
    This study aimed to examine police officers’ accuracy in classifying guilty and innocent participants using 3 interviewing styles (evidence-focused, relationship-focused, and control). In a modified version of Russano, Meissner, Narchet, and Kassin’s (2005) deception paradigm, participants who had violated a rule (i.e., cheating while solving problems) were considered guilty, whereas those who had followed the rule were considered innocent. After interviewing 234 adult men, 11 experienced male police officers accurately classified over 90% of them as guilty or innocent. Of 160 participants who did not admit to cheating, 140 (87.5%) were correctly classified. There was no statistically significant relationship between interviewing style and police officers’ identifications of guilty deniers (i.e., liars) and innocent deniers (truth tellers). However, interviewers were more likely to believe guilty deniers in the evidence-focused condition, and they tended to believe innocent deniers in the relationship-focused condition. These findings suggest that the ability to detect deception might be influenced by interviewing style. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Long-term economic benefits of psychological interventions for criminality: Comparing and integrating estimation methods.
    Policymakers have been increasingly interested in psychological interventions for criminality that are both evidence-based and financially sustainable, yet the best method for estimating long-term economic benefits of reductions in crime remains unclear. The present study evaluated two modifications of a cost-benefit analysis model from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (i.e., WSIPP model) that calculated long-term benefits using (1) an expansive method based on year-by-year arrest rates and (2) a summary method based on average arrest rates over the follow-up period. More specifically, we applied the expansive method to data from previously published studies that had estimated summary economic benefits for (a) a 25-year follow-up of multisystemic therapy (MST) and (b) a 9-year follow-up of MST for problem sexual behaviors (MST-PSB). Results indicated that (a) estimated benefits were more conservative (i.e., negatively biased) yet more stable (i.e., less variable) under the summary method versus the expansive method and (b) excluding years of follow-up with high amounts of missing data resulted in modest increases in stability under the expansive method, although negative bias of the summary method was also less pronounced in this analysis. Given the complementary strengths and limitations of the expansive and summary methods, we recommend an integrative approach that synthesizes results across both methods to yield more balanced conclusions. Implications of these findings for researchers, policymakers, and public service agencies are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Childhood immunization, vaccine hesitancy, and provaccination policy in high-income countries.
    Increasing vaccine hesitancy among parents in high-income countries and the resulting drop in early childhood immunization constitute an important public health problem, and raise the issue of what policies might be taken to promote higher rates of vaccination. This article first outlines the background of the problem of increasing vaccine hesitancy. It then explores the pros and cons of 3 types of policy: (a) interventions focused on increasing awareness of the benefits of vaccination while eliminating mistaken perceptions of risks, (b) “nudges,” which make certain choices more likely to be voluntarily chosen by manipulating the decision environment, and (c) policies that impose costs to make nonvaccination undesirable even for parents who are hesitant. It argues that a wide range of policies, including coercive policies, is desirable from a public health perspective, as the least intrusive policies alone are unlikely to achieve and sustain the important public good of herd immunity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Seeing red: Disgust reactions to gruesome photographs in color (but not in black and white) increase convictions.
    Jurors are often exposed to emotionally disturbing gruesome photographs of victims of extreme violence. Judges must determine whether the informational value of these photographs outweighs their prejudicial effect on jurors and are left to their assumptions about juror psychology to do so. The current research draws upon the affect infusion model (AIM; Forgas, 1995) to investigate the affective mechanism through which gruesome photographs might operate. A mock jury experiment presented online adults (n = 193) with murder trial evidence that included verbal descriptions of the victim’s injuries and neutral photographs in all conditions. Participants were randomly assigned to view (a) only the nongruesome photographs or additional gruesome photographs of the victim in (b) color, or (c) black and white (B&W). Color gruesome (vs. nongruesome) photographs increased convictions via the disgust they elicited. Consistent with the AIM, this was especially so for mock jurors with relatively higher awareness of their bodily sensations. The effects of gruesome photographs in color on disgust and verdicts were eliminated, however, when the same photographs were presented in B&W. A second experiment (n = 354) replicated these results and also revealed that viewing color gruesome photographs significantly reduced mock jurors’ sensitivity to a manipulation of defense evidence strength—especially among jurors with relatively higher bodily awareness. Thus, gruesome photographs can increase convictions via direct and indirect affect infusion. Presenting gruesome photographs in B&W might reduce jurors’ emotional reactions while maintaining their probative information. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Religion at work: Evaluating hostile work environment religious discrimination claims.
    Studies rarely address religious discrimination in the workplace, though claims have more than doubled in the last 20 years. The present studies investigated whether social psychology can help predict perceptions of hostile work environments (HWEs) faced by workers on the basis of their religion. That is, the present research examined whether and how self-referencing, similarity, and social identity affect how people perceive complainants and harassers in religious HWE cases and if those perceptions affect legal decisions such as whether discrimination occurred. In Study 1, evaluators read case summaries of Jewish or Muslim workers facing workplace religious discrimination. In Study 2, evaluators read case summaries focused on the alleged harasser, who was either Mormon or Evangelical Christian. The present studies found that self-referenced, subjective assessment as to whether religious discrimination occurred predicted objective legal judgments made after reading jury instructions. In addition, the subjective–objective legal judgment relationship was generally stronger when the evaluator and the complainant were perceived as more similar or shared an in-group status. Overall, these studies demonstrated that the experimental paradigm used to explain self-referencing and perceptions of sexual harassment can be applied to religious discrimination claims, and also expanded that paradigm by investigating the roles of perceived similarity and social identity. Each played an important role in the legal decision making process and Evangelical Christian evaluators were especially shown to protect an Evangelical Christian supervisor accused of harassing a secular employee. Implications for handling and reducing the number of religious discrimination incidents in the workplace are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Logical but incompetent plea decisions: A new approach to plea bargaining grounded in cognitive theory.
    Although much research considers the cognitive processes involved in legal decision making of jurors and judges, decisions to accept or reject plea bargains have received far less attention. We examine decisions in plea scenarios to test predictions of Fuzzy-Trace Theory regarding how cognitive processing style (specifically, greater reliance on gist or verbatim representations) affects plea decisions and how this could lead to suboptimal decision making, especially among defendants who are young adults. Results support Fuzzy-Trace Theory’s predictions by showing that the type of mental representation relied on by an individual (gist or verbatim) predicts plea bargain decisions—with those relying on gist being more influenced by categorical meaning-based distinctions, such as being guilty versus innocent or getting a felony versus misdemeanor. Importantly, results suggest that differences between the 2 groups are not caused by a difference in values but by the fact that individuals relying on verbatim representations are making decisions that do not reflect their underlying values, due to a “hyper-rational” reasoning process. These results reveal a new threat to competent plea decisions—a logical reasoning process that is arguably not fully competent—which has implications for the current plea bargaining system. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • How important is the name in predicting false recognition for lookalike brands?
    An underexploited role for psychology in trademark law is the testing of explicit or implicit judicial assumptions about consumer behavior. In this article we examine an assumption that is common across Commonwealth countries, namely, that similar packaging is unlikely to cause consumer confusion provided the brand names are dissimilar. We began by selecting branded products commonly found in supermarkets. For each existing brand we created 2 novel (fictitious) brands with highly similar packaging to the existing brand. One of these “lookalike” products had a similar name, the other a dissimilar name. Across 2 yes/no and 1 forced-choice experiments using photographs of the real and fictitious products we looked at false recognition rates. Contrary to the judicial assumption participants largely ignored the brand names when making their decisions based on memory. It was only when the pictures of the products were placed side-by-side (in the forced-choice task) that they paid the brand name any significant attention. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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