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Validity, Inter-Rater Reliability, and Measures of Adaptive Behavior: Concerns Regarding the Probative Versus Prejudicial Value

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The question as to whether the assessment of adaptive behavior (AB) for evaluations of intellectual disability (ID) in the community meet the level of rigor necessary for admissibility in legal cases is addressed. Adaptive behavior measures have made their way

The question as to whether the assessment of adaptive behavior (AB) for evaluations of intellectual disability (ID) in the community meet the level of rigor necessary for admissibility in legal cases is addressed. Adaptive behavior measures have made their way into the forensic domain where scientific evidence is put under great scrutiny. Assessment of ID in capital murder proceedings has garnished a lot of attention, but assessments of ID in adult populations also occur with some frequency in the context of other criminal proceedings (e.g., competence to stand trial; competence to waive Miranda rights), as well as eligibility for social security disability, social security insurance, Medicaid/Medicare, government housing, and post-secondary transition services. As will be demonstrated, markedly disparate findings between raters can occur on measures of AB even when the assessment is conducted in accordance with standard procedures (i.e., the person was assessed in a community setting, in real time, with multiple appropriate raters, when the person was younger than 18 years of age) and similar disparities can be found in the context of the unorthodox and untested retrospective assessment used in capital proceedings. With full recognition that some level of disparity is to be expected, the level of disparity that can arise when these measures are administered retrospectively calls into question the validity of the results and consequently, their probative value.

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2018-02-01

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Moral Disengagement in Legal Judgments

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We investigated the role of moral disengagement in a legally‐relevant judgment in this theoretically‐driven empirical analysis. Moral disengagement is a social‐cognitive phenomenon through which people reason their way toward harming others, presenting a useful framework for investigating legal judgments that

We investigated the role of moral disengagement in a legally‐relevant judgment in this theoretically‐driven empirical analysis. Moral disengagement is a social‐cognitive phenomenon through which people reason their way toward harming others, presenting a useful framework for investigating legal judgments that often result in harming individuals for the good of society. We tested the role of moral disengagement in forensic psychologists’ willingness to conduct the most ethically questionable clinical task in the criminal justice system: competence for execution evaluations. Our hypothesis that moral disengagement would function as mediator of participants’ existing attitudes and their judgments—a theoretical “bridge” between attitudes and judgments—was robustly supported. Moral disengagement was key to understanding how psychologists decide to engage in competence for execution evaluations. We describe in detail the moral disengagement measure we used, including exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses across two separate samples. The four‐factor measure accounted for a total of 52.18 percent of the variance in the sample of forensic psychologists, and the model adequately fit the data in the entirely different sample of jurors in a confirmatory factor analysis. Despite the psychometric strengths of this moral disengagement measure, we describe the pros and cons of existing measures of moral disengagement. We outline future directions for moral disengagement research, especially in legal contexts.

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2017-11-07

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The “Dark Side” of Institutional Trust

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The majority of trust research has focused on the benefits trust can have for individual actors, institutions, and organizations. This “optimistic bias” is particularly evident in work focused on institutional trust, where concepts such as procedural justice, shared values, and

The majority of trust research has focused on the benefits trust can have for individual actors, institutions, and organizations. This “optimistic bias” is particularly evident in work focused on institutional trust, where concepts such as procedural justice, shared values, and moral responsibility have gained prominence. But trust in institutions may not be exclusively good. We reveal implications for the “dark side” of institutional trust by reviewing relevant theories and empirical research that can contribute to a more holistic understanding. We frame our discussion by suggesting there may be a “Goldilocks principle” of institutional trust, where trust that is too low (typically the focus) or too high (not usually considered by trust researchers) may be problematic. The chapter focuses on the issue of too-high trust and processes through which such too-high trust might emerge. Specifically, excessive trust might result from external, internal, and intersecting external-internal processes. External processes refer to the actions institutions take that affect public trust, while internal processes refer to intrapersonal factors affecting a trustor’s level of trust. We describe how the beneficial psychological and behavioral outcomes of trust can be mitigated or circumvented through these processes and highlight the implications of a “darkest” side of trust when they intersect. We draw upon research on organizations and legal, governmental, and political systems to demonstrate the dark side of trust in different contexts. The conclusion outlines directions for future research and encourages researchers to consider the ethical nuances of studying how to increase institutional trust.

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2016

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Identifying the Forensic Psychologist Role

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Since its debut over a century ago, forensic psychology has matured into a formally recognized specialty area of psychology with its own set of ethical guidelines; however, a consensual definition of forensic psychology remains elusive. After describing the field’s historical

Since its debut over a century ago, forensic psychology has matured into a formally recognized specialty area of psychology with its own set of ethical guidelines; however, a consensual definition of forensic psychology remains elusive. After describing the field’s historical and current struggles to define itself, two ethical issues are discussed that are especially applicable to psychology in legal contexts. The first is the critical differences between serving in therapeutic versus forensic roles and the associated ethical obligation to refrain from serving in both roles in the same case. Despite the terminology used in the literature, treatment in forensic contexts can be ethically appropriate. This chapter considers the current state of the literature regarding treatment in forensic contexts and suggests that this is likely to be an area of future growth for the field. The second ethical issue discussed in this chapter is the insidious effect of the adversarial process on psychologists’ objectivity in forensic contexts, termed “forensic identification” or “adversarial allegiance.” The forensic ethical guidelines affirm the primacy of this issue in forensic contexts, as evidenced by addressing it in the first two published guidelines. However, field and experimental evidence suggest psychologists have a challenging (if not impossible) task in avoiding partiality in adversarial forensic contexts. The chapter ends by briefly considering the methods psychologist might use in an effort to reduce partiality and by recognizing more research is needed to identify what else psychologists can do to strive to uphold the ethical guidelines in this regard.

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2017

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Self-Efficacy and Confidence: Theoretical Distinctions and Implications for Trial Consultation

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Self-Efficacy Theory (SET; Bandura, 1986, 2000) has generated research and practice ramifications across areas of psychology. However, self-efficacy has yet to be assessed in a legal context. The present paper juxtaposes self-efficacy with self-confidence in terms of theoretical foundations and

Self-Efficacy Theory (SET; Bandura, 1986, 2000) has generated research and practice ramifications across areas of psychology. However, self-efficacy has yet to be assessed in a legal context. The present paper juxtaposes self-efficacy with self-confidence in terms of theoretical foundations and practical implications, with attention to the area of witness testimony. It is concluded that the concept of witness self-efficacy possesses thorough theoretical grounding as a potential target for witness preparation. As such, we put forth an integrated model of witness preparation featuring self-efficacy bolstering techniques within an established witness training framework.

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2009

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Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils: A Framework for Considering the Ethics of Competence for Execution Evaluations

Description

Prisoners sentenced to death must be competent for execution before they can actually be executed (Ford v. Wainwright, 1986). The decision for many mental health professionals whether to conduct competence for execution evaluations may be fraught with complex ethical issues.

Prisoners sentenced to death must be competent for execution before they can actually be executed (Ford v. Wainwright, 1986). The decision for many mental health professionals whether to conduct competence for execution evaluations may be fraught with complex ethical issues. Mental health professionals who do not personally support capital punishment may have a particularly difficult decision to make in this regard but should seriously consider the consequences of their decisions. This article applies Bush, Connell, and Denney’s (2006) eight-step ethical decision-making model to the ethicality of deciding to or abstaining from conducting competence for execution evaluations. This article does not propose what decisions an individual evaluator should make regarding this work, but rather presents a systematic guide for mental health professionals (particularly those who do not support capital punishment) to consider.

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2010

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Measuring Abuse Sequelae: Validating and Extending the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40

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The current study used the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40 (TSC-40) to index both childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and childhood physical abuse (CPA) in a college student sample of both men and women (N = 441). Although the TSC-40 was designed as

The current study used the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40 (TSC-40) to index both childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and childhood physical abuse (CPA) in a college student sample of both men and women (N = 441). Although the TSC-40 was designed as a measure of CSA trauma, this study concludes the measure is appropriately reliable for indexing the traumatic sequelae of CPA as well as CSA in nonclinical samples. The current study also explored the effects of gender and abuse severity on resulting symptomatology, finding that women and severely abused individuals report the most negative sequelae. Both CSA and CPA emerged as significant explanatory variables in TSC-40 scale scores beyond gender, supporting its validity for indexing traumatic sequelae in nonclinical samples.

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2013

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Online Searches for Jury Selection

Description

The Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants the right to trial by an impartial jury. Attorneys are expected to obtain information about potential juror biases and then deselect biased jurors. Social networking sites may offer useful information about potential jurors. Although some

The Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants the right to trial by an impartial jury. Attorneys are expected to obtain information about potential juror biases and then deselect biased jurors. Social networking sites may offer useful information about potential jurors. Although some attorneys and trial consultants have begun searching online sources for information about jurors, the privacy rights of potential jurors’ online content has yet to be defined by case law. Two studies explored the issue of possible intrusion into juror privacy. First, an active jury venire was searched for online content. Information was found for 36% of the jurors; however, 94% of the information was found through simple Google searches. Only 6% of the information we found was unique to other sites. We concluded that searching for potential jurors online is feasible, but that systematically searching sites other than Google is generally not an effective search strategy. In our second study we surveyed attorneys, trial consultants, law students, and undergraduate students about ethical and privacy issues in the use of public domain information for jury selection. Participants evidenced concern about the rights of jurors, the rights of the defendant and accuser, and the role of tradition in court processes.

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Date Created
2013

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The Propriety of Preemptory Challenges for Perceived Personality Traits

Description

There is substantial controversy over the extent to which social science should be used in jury selection. Underlying the debate are two competing interests in the make-up of a jury: a privilege to strike prospective jurors on subjective grounds, which

There is substantial controversy over the extent to which social science should be used in jury selection. Underlying the debate are two competing interests in the make-up of a jury: a privilege to strike prospective jurors on subjective grounds, which supports scientific jury selection, and a collective interest of citizens to be free from exclusion from jury service, which does not. While the incommensurability of the interests precludes resolution of the controversy in the abstract, specific solutions are possible. Using the example of selection of jurors based upon their respective levels of extraversion, we describe how the competing interests frequently do not apply to concrete cases. In the subsequent analysis, we show that, rhetoric notwithstanding, a normative preference for adhering to tradition and institutional inertia are the primary instrumental considerations for determining whether peremptory challenges based upon personality traits like extraversion ought to be allowed. Consistent with this analysis, we conclude that the practice of striking jurors based upon estimates of such personality traits is appropriate.

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2013

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A Reasoned Argument Against Banning Psychologists’ Involvement in Death Penalty Cases

Description

Prompted by the involvement of psychologists in torturous interrogations at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the American Psychological Association (APA) revised its Ethics Code Standard 1.02 to prohibit psychologists from engaging in activities that would “justify or defend violating human rights.”

Prompted by the involvement of psychologists in torturous interrogations at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the American Psychological Association (APA) revised its Ethics Code Standard 1.02 to prohibit psychologists from engaging in activities that would “justify or defend violating human rights.” The revision to Standard 1.02 followed APA policy statements condemning torture and prohibiting psychologists’ involvement in such activities that constitute a violation of human rights (APA, 2010). Cogent questions have subsequently been raised about the involvement of psychologists in other activities that could arguably lead to human rights violations, even if the activity in question is legal. While this language was designed to be expansive in defining psychologists’ ethical responsibilities, it remains difficult to determine whether and how Standard 1.02 might apply to a particular situation.

In the present analysis, we focus on the question of whether psychologists should be involved in death penalty cases. We assert that the APA should not take an ethical stand against psychologists’ participation in death penalty cases. Our position is not intended necessarily to reflect approval or disapproval of the death penalty although we recognize that there are serious flaws in the American legal system with regard to capital punishment. Our perspective is that psychologists have an important role in the administration of due process in capital cases. We oppose a bright-line rule prohibiting psychologists’ involvement in death penalty cases for several reasons. We begin by considering whether the death penalty per se constitutes a human rights violation, move on to describe the basic functioning of the legal system, analyze how the involvement of psychologists actually affects the capital trial process, and end with providing practical advice for psychologists’ provision of ethical services in capital trials.

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2013