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Overview

Our program focuses on issues such as witness memory, interrogations, investigative interviewing, lineups, deception detection and juror decision-making. Capitalizing on our location in a major litigation center of of the southeastern United States, FIU is one of the few universities in the world with a doctoral concentration in legal psychology and is well-respected in psychology-law circles.

  • Research Labs

    The Legal Psychology Program prides itself on its record of research scholarship. Both faculty and students are encouraged to become actively engaged in grant writing, publications and conference presentations. Below are a sample of these activities. See also our faculty pages, where more details are listed.

    At the Modesto A. Maidique Campus:

    Cognitive Laboratory - Dr. Steve Charman

    Dr. Charman's research interests lie mainly in the area of eyewitness psychology. More specifically, his research topics include: the underlying cognitive processes of eyewitnesses; various lineup procedures that may improve eyewitness performance; the forensic usefulness (and dangers) of facial composites; and the processes by which crime suspects generate alibis (and how those alibis are subsequently evaluated). He currently maintains a legal psychology lab that involves numerous undergraduate and graduate students. He hopes that his work will help improve the accuracy of criminal trial verdicts, which, as recent DNA exoneration cases have shown, can be tragically mistaken.

    I-Lab (Interviewing Laboratory) - Dr. Nadja Schreiber Compo

    Dr. Schreiber Compo’s research focuses on investigative interviewing, especially the interviewing of vulnerable witnesses such as children or the intoxicated. She is both interested in potentially detrimental and beneficial interviewing techniques and their underlying cognitive and social mechanisms to improve the quality and quantity of witness and victim recall. Dr. Schreiber Compo has worked with and trained several law enforcement agencies. Her I-LAB involves a variety of undergraduate and graduate projects in the area of witness interviewing.

    Development, Context, and Communication Laboratory - Dr. Jacqueline R. Evans

    The TRIIIAD Lab conducts experimental research on investigative interviewing in its many forms, to include interviewing cooperative witnesses, interrogating uncooperative suspects, and gathering intelligence from sources. In addition, research in the lab addresses the ability (or lack thereof) to detect deception in a variety of contexts. Some of the variables/constructs Dr. Evans is currently interested in include: language proficiency, presence of a translator, depletion of self-regulatory resources, and interviewee intoxication. Dr. Evans works on these projects with both graduate and undergraduate students. She hopes that findings coming from the lab will help to inform professionals in various legal and national security contexts regarding the most effective methods to use when engaging in an investigative interview and assessing interviewee credibility.

    At the Biscayne Bay Campus:

    Cognitive Laboratory - Dr. Ronald P. Fisher

    Most of Dr. Fisher's research revolves around issues related to applying principles of cognition within a legal context. Dr. Fisher's three primary areas of research are (a) developing the Cognitive Interview procedure to enhance eyewitness memory of crimes (and also related areas, e.g. transportation, accidents, group and personal decisions), (b) understanding why memory is sometimes inconsistent and examining the implications for impeaching witnesses; and, (c) detecting deception via cognitive measures and manipulations.

  • Teaching

    Legal Psychology Courses

    At the graduate level, our faculty provide training in a variety of areas, including advanced seminars in, among other topics, eyewitness testimony, child witnesses, actual innocence and wrongful convictions, basic cognitive and social psychology, and methodology. Graduate level seminar courses rotate each semester and vary each year. Students should contact the Director of the Legal Psychology program for graduate course information and schedules.

    Undergraduate students interested in legal psychology have a wide variety of courses they can choose from. Although undergraduate can only earn a BA without specialization in psychology, there are specific classes related to areas of legal psychology they should consider taking. Our faculty and graduate students often are the instructors for these classes. Undergraduate students should speak with an Academic Adviser in the Department of Psychology before selecting and registering for classes.

    Legal Psychology-focused undergraduate courses

    • EXP 3523 Memory and Memory Improvement
    • EXP 4604 Cognitive Processes
    • SOP 3004 Introductory Social Psychology
    • SOP 4522 Social Motivation
    • SOP 4842 Legal Psychology
    • PSY 4913 Senior Seminar on the Psychology of Wrongful Convictions
  • Service & Consultation

    Members of the Legal Psychology Program apply their knowledge to practical issues facing the legal system. Dr. Ronald P. Fisher has served as a consultant to police departments across the world and the FBI and ATF, training officers in interview techniques that elicit more information without decreasing the accuracy of that information. Dr. Fisher has served as expert witnesses in cases involving eyewitness identification issues. Dr. Nadja Schreiber Compo has served as a trainer for the FBI, the City of Miami Police Department, and the Wisconsin Association for Identification, and has served as an expert witness in cases involving child witness interviewing. Dr. Steve Charman has served as an expert witness in multiple criminal cases involving eyewitness testimony, and has given training sessions to Public Defenders' Offices.