Monday, January 26, 2015

Empirically Based Evidence

Psychological profiling is a subject in Forensic Psychology that has always interested me. In fact, this is why I am pursuing this career field. Psychological profiling encompasses many categories but for the purpose of this discussion I will refer to psychological profiling as gathering data on an individual, for instance by tests and interviews. Tests such as MMPI-2 ( Minnesota Multiphasic  Personality Inventory-2), is an empirically based assessment for adults and it is part of the individual’s psychological profile. Psychological profiling is used to predict dangerousness in individuals called risk assessment. This assessment comprehends various types of evaluation procedures, interviews, and observations. Risk assessments provide a statistical statement about the chances of violent behavior happening again. However, these results are never certain and only provide a statistical probability of occurrence. Additionally, research has steadily shown that common sense is not a reliable standard to what matters in these assessments ( Bartol, 2011). In fact, statistical models that rely on quantifiable, valid risk factors, are greater than clinical judgment or professional opinion. Furthermore, opinions that rely on intuition  and other nonscientific methods, jeopardize the offender profiling in terms of court proceedings.
In light of expert testimony, clinical psychologists and other experts within this field have to present reliable, legally sufficient, and relevant evidence, to the case in hand (Bartol, 2011). The Fyrer  standard was replace with the Daubert standard because the first one was considered to be too strict, only accepting “general acceptance” evidence. Approximately 30 states use the Daubert standard for the admission of scientific evidence and it has been an invitation to carefully examine an array of psychological tests used by psychologists in their assessments.
An instance where the admissibility of expert testimony might be affected, is a testimony based solely on personal opinion. A forensic psychologist testifies in court that the offender is a danger to society and that violent behavior will occur                without personally assessing the individual, this is inadmissible evidence. The psychologist must personally evaluate the offender with empirically based assessment tools to be admissible and relevant in court.

Bartol, Curt. Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application, 3rd Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc, 03/2011.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Application of Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology

Often times, forensic psychologists come up as an expert witness in a court case. I foresee two conflicts within this role:  level of expertise and reliability and the way they obtain and provide evidence to the court.  The forensic psychologist has to abide by specific rules in order to testify as an expert, particularly that the expert is a specialist in the area and recognized as well. In this case, guideline of Competence in the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology applies to this dilemma. Within the Competence guideline, there are three sub guidelines that most accurately apply:
2.01 Scope of Competence
When the forensic psychologist is determining one’s competence to provide services in the a certain case, they should consider several factors: the complexity of the service, relevant training and expertise, the preparation they are going to be able to devote to the case, and chance for consultation  with another expert in the field (APA, 2014). This guideline one possible solution to the level of expertise and validity dilemma.
2.03 Representing Competencies
Forensic practitioners satisfactorily inform attorneys, courts and client about pertinent aspects of their experience, training, certificates, and qualifications and how they were achieved (APA, 2014). Experts should prove to all recipients that they are qualified to give a reliable testimony.
2.05 Knowledge of the Scientific Foundation for Opinions and Testimony
Forensic psychologists strive to provide views and testimony that are based on suitable scientific groundwork, and dependable and valid principles and methods that have been applied properly to the facts of the case (APA, 2014). This guideline address the importance of grounding opinions on reliable data. The expert should always use reliable and valid research to provide an unbiased testimony. Personal opinions should not be sufficient to base a judgment on a client.
The forensic psychologist is also required to follow the  Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology  in terms of the ethics of providing evidence that was gained by speaking to the offender inside a court setting. In this case, guideline of Professional and other public communications in the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology applies to this dilemma. Within this guideline, there is one sub guideline that most accurately apply:
11.01 Accuracy, Fairness, and Avoidance of Deception
Forensic psychologists attempt to ensure their professional statements and testimony, are expressed in ways that promote understanding and evade deception. When delivering reports and other sworn statements or testimony in any form, forensic practitioners make every effort to present their conclusions, evidence and opinions, in a unbiased manner.  Forensic practitioners do not, by either commission or omission, participate in distortion of their evidence, nor do they participate in biased attempts to avoid, deny or undermine the presentation of evidence dissimilar to their own position (APA, 2014).
In addition, the Informed consent, notification and assent  sub guideline applies to the acquiring of evidence:
6.03 Communication with Forensic Examinees
Forensic psychologists are encouraged to inform the client about the purpose of the examination. The client should also understand who will have access to the testimony, limitations of confidentiality and potential consequences of participation or non-participation (APA, 2014). The expert should explain the client that any testimony pertaining to the law, will have to be disclosed to the authorities. In others words, the expert should obtain information from the client in a fair manner in terms of trying not to trick the client into releasing information before he or she understand the process.
APA Online: Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology (2014). Retrieved from:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Children as Witnesses

I believe children can be reliable witnesses if the right professional is conducting the interviews, especially the initial one.  Child sexual abuse is the most  controversial crime because it affects the most innocent and weakest members of society. As a mother I cannot stand crimes against children and every time I see child abuse cases, I automatically see my children’ faces.  With this in mind I believe when officers involve in sexual abuse cases against children, feel the same way I do, and desperately try to find the guilty person. Officers interviewing the young victims,  have no doubt like I did before children would never lie about such crime. After all, how can a 4 year-old have such detailed ideas about sexual attitudes and actions? . However, the readings for the week proved me somewhat wrong, demonstrating children are not better witnesses as adults. According to Costanzo & Krauss (2012), because the ability to encode, store, and retrieve information is not fully developed in young children, the problems surrounding memory are significantly amplified when a witness to a victim is a child” (p. 236).
I believe children can describe most accurately a sexual abuse situation if the professional knows how ask questions  without inducing stress in the child. According to Goodman (2005),  “accuracy of children's testimony heavily depends on how they are interviewed” (p.1) and questions that give a child the chance to express themselves and tell the story.  Psychologists should be the ones interviewing child victims instead of officers because officers are trying to find the guilty person, but the psychologist is trying to find the truth, even if there is no crime or criminal.

Developing a Research Hypothesis

The topic I chose is bullying at schools because I am particularly impressed on how much young children can feel hate and satisfaction by making another classmate suffer. The article is called “Cohesion and power in the families of children involved in bully/victim problems at school”, encompassing the relationship between children and their families and how this is related to bulling other classmates. The power and cohesion seems to be very helpful on how to describe family systems. In addition, power and cohesion can also predict which children will bully be victims themselves. The study was conducted selecting 20 bullies, 20 bully/victims, and 20 control children, from three middle schools by a system of peer nomination. These students completed the Family System Test (FAST) to gather information on how they perceived their families on the elements of power and cohesion. The study aims to understand why some children become bullies and victims and others do not. The researchers seem to believe the family structure and negative relationship with the parents, have a great influence on negative behavior toward others. According to Bowers1992), “(Olweus (1980) has also argued that the emotional attitude of parents is an important factor in determining how the child’s peer relations develop at school. He found that a negative emotional attitude by the primary caregiver, together with permissiveness of aggression and use of power-assertive methods of discipline, increased the chance that a child will later become aggressive towards others”.
The research was descriptive, because the selected students were interviewed about other classmates and had to complete the FAST assessment. The research was also correlational because it was testing for statistical relationships between the variables suing the Pythagoras’ Theorem.  
My hypothesis predicts negative family structure will engender a bully child. The independent variable is negative family structure because it can change the dependent variable, which is the child. I strongly believe parents have a great influence on their children and can teach them positive social skills.  Parents who teach empathy for others and tolerance can have a different impact on their children. Also, a positive family structure influences children to have a high-self-esteem, which makes it less possible to be victims of bully.

Bowers, Louise,Smith, Peter K.,Binney, Valerie.” Cohesion and power in the families of children involved in bully/victim problems at school”. Journal of Family Therapy VL  - 14 IS  - 4. Blackwell Publishing. Retrieved from Walden University.


This essay will evaluate the "The Role of Culture in the Representation of Conflict in Dreams: A Comparison of Bedouin, Irish, and Israeli Children”, from the methodology point of view. In addition, the sample selection will be evaluated, whether or not there was bias and what could have been done to prevent this. Data collection process and interpretation of results will also be analyzed to offer suggestions on how to improve the research.

·         Name the independent and dependent variables in the study described in "The Role of Culture in the Representation of Conflict in Dreams: A Comparison of Bedouin, Irish, and Israeli Children"
The independent variable in this study are the  Bedouin, Irish, and Israeli Children because, “Ethnicity, nationality, or other cultural identification of the members of studied groups will typically represent the independent variable.” (Shiraev & Levy, 2010, p.38).                                          
The dependent variable is the conflict in dreams because “the aspect of human activity that is studied and expected to change under influence of the independent variable is called the dependent variable.” (Shiraev & Levy, 2010, p.38).

·         Evaluate the sample selection, and include your thoughts on whether or not there was a bias in the sample selection. If so, explain what might have been done to prevent the bias.
The sample selection was systematic because the psychologists chose children from  three cultures, Irish, Israeli, and Bedouin. The participants were 26 Bedouin children from seminomadic tribe, 24 Israeli children from a large rural area, and 27 Irish children from an isolated fishing village. The first problem I encountered with the study is the number of subjects who participated, a small representative number of each culture. Shiraev & Levy state “the smaller the sample, the greater the sampling error, and the greater the result of chance factors." (p.34). Another bias I believe I found is  that the children were students, a fact that does not make these children representative sample of their culture. Bedouin children constantly move and some of them might not attend school; the Israeli children who participated in this research, are from a large rural area, making them different from other Israeli children living in other areas; the Irish children lived in an isolated village away from any war conflicts. To prevent any bias, I would use random sampling and a larger sample, to lower the sampling error.

·         Evaluate the data collection process and consider any potential problems with how the reports about the dreams were collected. Explain how the data collection process could be improved.
The children were given a copybook to record their dreams on their awakening and were interviewed for 7 successive days.  If necessary, the children were asked details about their dreams. Dreams reports were tape-recorded and later translated. Some potential problems I see with how the reports were collected are the interpreter who interviewed the children, whether the children recorded their dreams every day, and what level of education they had to be able to express what they had dreamed. In order to understand the Bedouin and Israeli children, not only a knowledge of the language is necessary, but their culture as well. If the interpreter was from their respective cultures, how much knowledge of English they had to be able to translate exactly what the children reported of their dreams?. Another question I have is whether the children easily expressed what they wanted to say about their dreams; I wonder if the Bedouin children had as much schooling completed as the Israeli and Irish, since they moved quite often.  The research does not mention the interpreter for the Bedouin and Israeli children, was from the same culture or a person with knowledge of the respective language. According to Shiraev & Levy ( 2010), “one of the most difficult tasks appears before the investigator: to make sure that the translated version of the method is as close to the original version as possible. However, even a well-translated version of a test is always different from the original one.” (p.40). I would use the naturalistic observation to better understand the events the Bedouin, Israeli, and Irish children; I would observe how their family structures are, how much peer influence they have, if they abused at home and as a result there is greater representation of conflicts.

·         Evaluate the interpretation of the results. Explain any problems with how the results were interpreted and offer suggestions to improve the interpretation.
I do not  believe a quantitative method to interpret dreams is the best one to use. First of all, there is an uneven number of girls and boys within each culture and I believe boys see the world and react different than the girls. In addition, the psychologists used a rating method for the dreams that were rated by three individuals, who were trained to use the Conflict Rating Schedule. Although these individuals were na├»ve as to the country of the children, they based they rating on the transcribed material, being the reason I think the results may not be as accurate. An example of disagreement I had with the interpretation of results, is the one that states “in conflictual dreams, other characters appearing in the dream were less likely to be friends or relatives of the dreamer and more likely to be strangers, as compared to dream participants in nonconflictual dreams.” (Levine, 1991). However, the father and the mother were present in the  conflictual dream described by a Bedouin child; an Irish child described the conflictual dream but never mentioned whether there were strangers or relatives with him. An Israeli child reported a conflictual dream with strangers and his father as well, mentioning “we were planting”, which could mean he was with people he knew too. One of the results caught my attention is the Social Responsibility rate the Bedouin children got, only an 8%. According to Levine, “in this community, a  high value appeared to be place on the welfare of the group as opposed to the individual, as evidenced by the Bedouin’s emphasis on hospitality and the presence of large extended families, which constituted a highly supportive social system.” (Levine, 1991). I would improve the interpretation of results by understanding their culture, making sure I observe everything is not easily noticed at first.

·         Select a method that is different from that used in the survey. Explain how you could study the same topic in the reading by conducting a study using the method you chose.
I would study the same topic using qualitative method because I believe human interactions and emotions, cannot be studied using numbers. Before conducting the survey or interview, I would observe the participants in their natural habitat, so they would feel comfortable answering questions to the researchers. Surveys can be misleading because the children might be highly influenced by adults in their community and could be scared to express their dreams in front of other children and adults. Also, I would choose an application-oriented strategy since one research method might not work for certain cultures. In addition to recording the reports of dreams, I would video-record the participants in order to observe non-verbal language when talking to the researcher. Non-verbal language could say more than the child could verbally express about his dreams.