Brent Snook – Deception Detection and Using Science to Improve Justice (#25)

We need scientists giving guidance to the justice system. It ought to be science-first. ~ Dr. Brent Snook

Dr. Brent Snook (faculty page) is a psychology professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is also the principal investigator at Memorial’s Psychology & Law Laboratory.   

Brent’s research in the field of forensic psychology covers topics like the reliability and validity of investigative practices (like interviewing) and ensuring people understand their interrogation rights. He serves as an expert witness on interviewing and memory contamination in court and provides advice on the integrity of evidence derived from interviews and interrogations. Brent also trains people in the use of scientific-based information gathering techniques to a wide variety of groups.

In this conversation, Brent explains the way we can use science and data to evaluate the success of justice processes. One of those processes involves deception detection, or the ability to determine whether someone is lying. In a courtroom, judges use deception detection to assess the credibility of witness testimony and the weight of their evidence. 

What does the scientific data say about the practice of deception detection? The answer might surprise you.

Brent also shares some examples of the way scientific research can be used to improve investigation and interrogation techniques. 

This episode is a must for anyone interested in deception detection, the application of psychology to law and justice or the use of scientific data and evidence to improve the way our legal system works.  

Topics Covered

  1. Scientific research techniques.
  2. The relationship between science and law. 
  3. Forensic psychology. 
  4. Science, data and policing.
  5. The philosophy of science. 
  6. Deception detection. 
  7. Police interrogation techniques. 
  8. Informing suspects of their rights. 

Listen to “25 Brent Snook – Deception Detection and Using Science to Improve Justice” on Spreaker.

The Quiz for this episode is here.

Pre-approved by the Law Society of BC for 1.3 hours of CPD credits.

Are you a member of a law society outside BC? Try here.

Show Notes (they’re all out by a couple of minutes due to editing and will hopefully be fixed soon!)

8:30 How Brent describes his day job

9:00 Experimental research

11:20 How justice stakeholders react to scientific data and findings

14:20 Why we might resist or reject evidence showing a practice or belief to be invalid

15:15 Brent’s path into forensic psychology

16:50 Royal Newfoundland Constabulary

19:30 Geographic profiling

20:30 The use of science and psychological data in policing

25:00 The philosophy of science

26:00 R v. N.S. 2012 SCC 72

27:50 Assessing Truthfulness on the Witness Stand: Eradicating Deeply Rooted Pseudoscientific Beliefs about Credibility Assessment by Triers of Fact (PDF) by Brent Snook, Meagan I. McCardle, Weyam Fahmy and John C. House

32:10 What the scientific evidence says about detection deception

36:15 Professionals and deception detection

42:40 Challenging the data

43:14 Unveiling the truth: The effect of Muslim garments and face covering on the perceived credibility of a victim’s court testimony by Fahmy, Weyam; Snook, Brent; Luther, Kirk; McCardle, Meagan

51:03 What Brent would do if he was in charge of the justice system

52:30 A science czar for the justice system

54:06 People on video when others are in court

55:10 Focusing on the content of communications rather than non-verbal cues

57:40 Police interview and interrogation techniques

59:20 Information gathering vs intimidation and accusation

1:00:00 Ensuring people understand their rights

1:05:00 Collecting data before making a decision

1”08:47 What the future might hold for interview and interrogation

1:09:30 The need for rulings from the Supreme Court of Canada to put science first

1:10:00 Barriers to science-based improvements in the justice system

1:11:00 Professionalizing through science

1:13:45 How Brent defines success for himself

1:15:10 The toughest choice or sacrifice Brent made to get where he is today

1:16:15 If he had to do a week’s worth of work in 3 hours

1:16:40 Things Brent does to look after himself

1:17:18 Where to learn more for people who are too busy to spend much time: Brent’s website

1:19:00 Before my work in the law is done, I want to …

1:19:20 Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini

1:20:00 Serial podcast

1:21:12 Brent’s asks for listeners or calls to action

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