Forensic and Investigative Psychology Research Group

Our Research group aims to produce theoretically-informed and evidence-based research that has an applied focus, with clear potential impact in the areas of investigative and forensic psychology.

Strong collaborative links with practitioner colleagues promote practice-based research, allowing us to address issues that are directly relevant to real world criminal justice settings, and to contribute to the development of practitioner training.

Meet our team

Lab Co-ordinator: Clea Wright, Lecturer
Agata Debowska, Senior Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University
Geoff Elvey, Head of the Institute of Policing
Michelle Mattison, Lecturer
Kerri Nixon, practicing Forensic Psychologist

Some of our current projects

The effect of personality traits on attitudes towards sexual violence against women and children within a prison sample (PI: Agata Debowska). Women and children are sexually victimised at significantly higher rates than men. A better understanding of attitudes towards violence against women and children is vital for effective prevention strategies. Although previous research demonstrated a significant role of cognitive distortions pertaining to rape in sexual violence, little is known about the aetiology of such attitudes. In this study we examine the effect of personality traits, childhood abuse and neglect, and criminal social identity on attitudes regarding sexual violence against women and children. Participants are violent and non-violent male offenders incarcerated in low-, medium-, and high-security prisons in Poland. It is expected that our findings will aid the development of violence-prevention strategies in prison settings.

Gathering ‘initial’ best evidence from vulnerable witnesses: understanding current police practices (PI: Michelle Mattison). Prior to conducting a formal investigative interview with a vulnerable victim or witness, police officers must obtain an ‘initial account’. National guidance recommends that interviewers adhere to seven basic principles when gathering the initial account, but anecdotal evidence suggests that police forces across England and Wales use different methods. As such, the manner by which the seven basic principles are applied, or indeed, are adhered to during this process, is currently unknown.  This project aims to establish the methods that officers employ when obtaining initial accounts, exploring differences, and also, the potential implications that differing methods may have upon the formal interview.  The findings from this study will be used to understand, inform and enhance police interviewing practices across the UK.


Patterns in intimate partner homicide cases (PI: Kerri Nixon).  Recent research has demonstrated the heterogeneity of domestic abuse perpetrators and incidents. Despite this evidence there is still a rhetoric that surrounds domestic abuse suggesting it is all about power and control. In particular when serious violence and murder is discussed there is an immediate association to power dynamics made. Thus, the objective of the current research is to examine a sample of domestic homicides in order to determine if there is a pattern to domestic homicides revealing heterogeneity in the same way as incidents. A multi-dimensional thematic analysis is used to explore patterns in the domestic homicides. Forty one domestic homicides are examined; all available archived homicides over a seven year period have been included. The pattern of co-occurrence of the presence or absence of incident characteristics is revealed using a multi-dimensional scaling procedure, Smallest Space Analysis (SSA).


Verbal indicators of deception in police interviews with homicide suspects (PI: Clea Wright). Little is known about which cues to deception may have utility in real life, high stakes situations, and yet it is these very situations in which the consequences of deception are most serious. In this research project, real life police interviews with homicide suspects are being used to investigate which verbal behaviours may indicate that a suspect is lying. It is likely that there are some verbal cues to deception that can be generalised across contexts, but recent research also suggests that there may be previously unidentified behaviours that occur only within specific contexts. A flexible methodology is being employed, incorporating both theoretical and data-driven approaches, to allow for the investigation of cross-context cues, and also for context-specific cues to emerge.


Recent publications

Debowska, A., Mattison, M.L.A., & Boduszek, D. (2015 - in press). Gender differences in the correlates of reactive aggression. Polish Psychological Bulletin. (ISSN 1641-7844)

Debowska, A., Boduszek, D., Dhingra, K., Kola, S., & Meller-Prunska, A. (2015). The role of psychopathy and exposure to violence in rape myth acceptance. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 30(15), 2751-2770. DOI: 10.1177/0886260514553635 (ISSN 0886-2605)

Mattison, M. L. A, Dando, C. J. & Ormerod, T. (2015).  Sketching to remember: Episodic free recall task support for child witnesses and victims with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(6), 1751-1765doi: 10.1007/s10803-014-2335-z 

Wright Whelan, C., Wagstaff, G. F. & Wheatcroft, J. M. (2014). High Stakes Lies: Police and non-police Accuracy in Detecting Deception. Psychology, Crime and Law. Manuscript published online 21stJuly 2014. DOI: 10.1080/1068316X.2014.935777

Wright Whelan, C., Wagstaff, G. F. & Wheatcroft, J. M. (2013). High Stakes Lies: Verbal and Nonverbal Cues to Deception in Public Appeals for Help with Missing or Murdered Relatives. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law. Manuscript published online 23rd September 2013. DOI:10.1080/13218719.2013.839931