Category Archives: Publications

The effect of training on investigative interviewers’ attitudes and beliefs related to child sexual abuse.

March 2017

Hanna Lahtinen, Julia Korkman, Aarno Laitila & Lauri Mehtätalo

This study explored the effect of training on investigative interviewers’ attitudes and beliefs related to child sexual abuse (CSA). The one-year training provided knowledge about the influence of attitudes and beliefs when investigating alleged crimes against children, guidance for using an interview protocol developed by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the theory behind its use and supervision and feedback for the participants. In total, 27 investigative interviewers took part in the training. Attitudes and beliefs related to CSA were measured with a questionnaire at the beginning and end of training and a year after the training was completed. It was found that the training decreased the total number of incorrect beliefs held by participants and that this positive effect was maintained a year after the training. Already at the beginning of the training few participants were found to hold biased attitudes towards CSA, such as strongly relying on intuition, and the results improved further by the end of the training. Nevertheless, the follow-up revealed that, after a year, participants tended to trust their intuitions more than at the end of the training. Implications of the study for training investigative interviewers will be discussed. Key words: Police training, CSA investigation, attitudes, beliefs, intuition.

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The Effects of Feedback and Reflection on the Questioning Style of Untrained Interviewers in Simulated Child Sexual Abuse Interviews

February 2017

Niels Krause, Francesco Pompedda, Jan Antfolk, Angelo Zappalà & Pekka Santtila

“”The first two authors have contributed to the manuscript equally and are given in alphabetical order”” We provided immediate and detailed feedback in a training paradigm in which simulated interviews with computer-generated avatars were used to improve interviewers’ questioning style. Fifty-nine untrained student/interviewers conducted eight interviews each and were randomly assigned to a control, feedback, or feedback and reflection group. Compared to the control group, the groups receiving feedback used a higher percentage of recommended questions and retrieved more relevant details while using a lower percentage of not recommended questions and retrieved less wrong details. Only the groups that received feedback reached a reliable change in the proportion of recommended questions. The reflection intervention proposed in the present study did not enhance training effects above and beyond feedback in the present sample. The present study replicated previous findings regarding the role of feedback in improving the quality of investigative interviews, however, failing to show an effect of reflection. Further studies on different reflection tasks are suggested.

Fins the article on ResearchGate.

Age Limits: Men’s and Women’s Youngest and Oldest Considered and Actual Sex Partners

January 2017

Jan Antfolk

hereas women of all ages prefer slightly older sexual partners, men—regardless of their age—have a preference for women in their 20s. Earlier research has suggested that this difference between the sexes’ age preferences is resolved according to women’s preferences. This research has not, however, sufficiently considered that the age range of considered partners might change over the life span. Here we investigated the age limits (youngest and oldest) of considered and actual sex partners in a population-based sample of 2,655 adults (aged 18-50 years). Over the investigated age span, women reported a narrower age range than men and women tended to prefer slightly older men. We also show that men’s age range widens as they get older: While they continue to consider sex with young women, men also consider sex with women their own age or older. Contrary to earlier suggestions, men’s sexual activity thus reflects also their own age range, although their potential interest in younger women is not likely converted into sexual activity. Compared to homosexual men, bisexual and heterosexual men were more unlikely to convert young preferences into actual behavior, supporting female-choice theory.

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Judges’ Capacity to Evaluate Psychological and Psychiatric Expert Testimony

January 2016

Alessandro Tadei, Katarina Finnilä, Agnetha Reite, Jan Antfolk & Pekka Santtila

We examined the criteria judges in Finland perceive as important when evaluating the quality of expert testimony, and how judges question psychological and psychiatric expert witnesses to determine the reliability of their testimony. The 87 participating judges rated the importance of the following criteria for the credibility of expert testimony: expert’s work experience, expert’s research activity, falsifiability, error rate, peer-reviewed research, scientific acceptance, and practical acceptance. The judges were thereafter given five vignettes describing expert testimony and asked about the questions they would present to the expert witness about each case. The results show that the judges considered the expert’s work experience to be the most important criterion when judging the reliability of expert evidence. Also, the questions they would ask to assess the reliability of the testimony are consistent with these results. However, as the judges mostly asked questions that could not directly be categorized into any of the seven categories, additional categories were created. These additional categories reveal that many judges ask a more general question concerning the testimony. The present study indicates that the judges are not sufficiently equipped to correctly evaluate expert testimony.

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Can hard-to-solve one-off homicides be distinguished from serial homicides? Differences in offence behaviours and victim characteristics

August 2015

Tom Pakkanen, Angelo Zappalà, Dario Bosco, Andrea Berti & Pekka Santtila

The purpose of this paper is to explore the differences (if any) between serial and hard-to-solve one-off homicides, and to determine if it is possible to distinguish the two types of homicides based on offence behaviours and victim characteristics. Design/methodology/approach – A sample of 116 Italian serial homicides was compared to 45 hard-to-solve one-off homicides. Hard-to-solve one-off homicides were defined as having at least 72 hours pass between when the offence came to the knowledge of the police and when the offender was caught. Logistic regression was used to predict whether a killing was part of a series or a one-off offence. Findings – The serial killers targeted more strangers and prostitutes, displayed a higher level of forensic awareness both before and after the killing, and had more often an apparent sexual element in their offence. Conversely, the one-off homicides were found to include more traits indicative of impulsive and expressive behaviour. The model demonstrated a good ability (AUC=0.88) to predict whether a homicide belonged to the serial or one-off category. Research limitations/implications – The findings should be replicated using local homicide data to maximise the validity of the model in countries outside of Italy. Practical implications – Being able to distinguish between serial and one-off homicides based on information available at a new crime scene could be practically useful for homicide investigators managing finite resources. Originality/value – Studies comparing serial homicides to one-off homicides are scarce, and there are no studies explicitly trying to predict whether a homicide is an isolated case or part of a series.

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The NICHD protocol: A review of an internationally-used evidence-based tool for training child forensic interviewers

June 2015

David La Rooy, Sonja P Brubacher, Anu Aromäki-Stratos, Mireille Cyr, Irit Hershkowitz, Julia Korkman, Trond Myklebust, Makiko Naka, Carlos E. Peixoto, Kim P Roberts, Heather Stewart & Michael E Lamb

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to review an evidence-based tool for training child forensic interviewers called the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Protocol (NICHD Protocol), with a specific focus on how the Protocol is being adapted in various countries. Design/methodology/approach – The authors include international contributions from experienced trainers, practitioners, and scientists, who are already using the Protocol or whose national or regional procedures have been directly influenced by the NICHD Protocol research (Canada, Finland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, and USA). Throughout the review, these experts comment on: how and when the Protocol was adopted in their country; who uses it; training procedures; challenges to implementation and translation; and other pertinent aspects. The authors aim to further promote good interviewing practice by sharing the experiences of these international experts. Findings – The NICHD Protocol can be easily incorporated into existing training programs worldwide and is available for free. It was originally developed in English and Hebrew and is available in several other languages. Originality/value – This paper reviews an evidence-based tool for training child forensic interviewers called the NICHD Protocol. It has been extensively studied and reviewed over the past 20 years. This paper is unique in that it brings together practitioners who are actually responsible for training forensic interviewers and conducting forensic interviews from all around the world.

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Simulations of child sexual abuse interviews using avatars paired with feedback improves interview quality

January 2015

Francesco Pompedda, Angelo Zappalà & Pekka Santtila

We tested whether simulated child sexual abuse (CSA) interviews with computer-generated child avatars could improve interview quality. Feedback was provided not only on question types, as in previous research, but also on whether the conclusions drawn by the interviewers were correct. Twenty-one psychology students (average age M = 24.5) interviewed four different avatars which had a simulated story of either abuse or non-abuse. The participants were randomly divided into two groups: one received feedback on question types and conclusions after each simulated interview and the other one did not receive any feedback. Avatars revealed pre-defined ‘memories’ as a function of algorithms formulated based on previous empirical research on children’s suggestibility. The feedback group used more open-ended and fewer closed questions. They also made more correct conclusions and found more correct details in the last two interviews compared to the no-feedback group. Feedback on both the question types and conclusions in simulated CSA interviews with avatars can improve the quality of investigative interviews in only one hour. The implications for training practice were discussed.

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Features used by judges to evaluate expert witnesses for psychological and psychiatric legal issues

October 2014

Alessandro Tadei, Katarina Finnilä, Julia Korkman, Benny Salo & Pekka Santtila

We examined how judges evaluate four characteristics when choosing an expert witness for a forensic psychological or psychiatric case. We asked 87 judges to read short descriptions of legal cases and asked them to choose the best expert witness from a pool of experts who differed based on the following four criteria: the expert could be a psychologist or a psychiatrist, have or not have work experience, have or not have a leadership role, and have or not have publications in the field. The results showed that the judges considered the expert’s work experience as a necessary criterion without which the witness cannot be chosen. Also, they considered having publications in the field as important and covering leadership roles as useless, if not harmful. Further, the judges demonstrated to be accurate in choosing a psychologist or a psychiatrist according to the presented legal case. Analyzing separately the impact of the judges’ age and gender on their choosing style, we observed a trend for male judges to value leadership roles and no significant impact of age on the responses given. The study highlights how the selection of expert witnesses is strongly driven by the expert’s work experience which, however, may not always be a reliable cue of actual expertise both in the psychological and psychiatric fields.

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The Prevalence of Unfounded Suspicions of Child Sexual Abuse in Finland

April 2018 

Julia Korkman, Jan Antfolk, Monica Fagerlund & Pekka Santtila

Scholars and investigators of child sexual abuse (CSA) have long pointed out that some CSA allegations may be unfounded. However, no population-based estimates of the occurrence of false allegations has previously been undertaken. The present study presents the first population-based prevalence estimates of unfounded allegations of CSA. We analyzed two data collections: first, a representative sample of adolescents (N = 11,364; aged 12 or 15 years), and second, a representative sample of adults (N = 2,484, mean age 34 years). Experiences of CSA were reported by 2.4% of adolescents and 8.9% of adults. Unfounded suspicions of CSA (e.g., someone falsely believing CSA had taken place) were reported by 1.5% of adolescents and 1.9% of adults. Of the unfounded suspicions, 14.5% and 9.1%, for adolescents and adults, respectively, had been reported to the authorities. The prevalence of CSA seems to decrease while more and more allegations reach the authorities. Whereas a low threshold for reporting suspicions of CSA to authorities is in the interest of protecting as many actual CSA victims as possible, more research is needed to separate unfounded vs. founded allegations to minimize the risk of erroneous conclusions in investigations of CSA.

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