Research Topic

Deception in Court: Open Issues and Detection Techniques

About this Research Topic

“Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.”
– Oscar Wilde

Forensic psychiatric assessment is an extremely difficult task that is even more complicated by the risk of deception and malingering, whose evaluation is becoming a cornerstone issue in forensic practice due to their high prevalence (around 40%). Especially in the case of mental insanity evaluation, the assessment of psychiatric and cognitive symptoms become complicated by the fact that, although the majority of offenders found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder had previous contacts with psychiatric services, these symptoms can be easily faked or exaggerated for defensive purposes. This is outstandingly important during the evaluation of defendants who do not have a previous psychiatric history. Furthermore, forensic psychiatric assessment is in itself difficult since it is grounded mainly on the evaluation of what is verbally reported by the examinee, who often have advantages in malingering mental condition in order to attribute responsibility for the crime to an external condition. Previous provocative studies indeed demonstrated that relying upon symptoms reported by the patient is not as reliable as previously thought: for instance, in a famous study conducted in 1973, all the “pseudopatients” feigning hallucinations were diagnosed as schizophrenic. These results, coupled with the dramatically low inter-rater reliability (that ranges from 45.5% to 54.5%) of unstructured psychiatric interviews, highlighted the urgent need to have complementary and integrative results that may strengthen the process to decrease the risk of errors.

In the last few years, there has been increasing interest in the application of cutting edge methods for the detection of deception to aid accurate evaluation in the legal setting. These methodologies included, for instance, a specific neuro-psychological evaluation to test deception and malingering, the application of reaction time or mouse tracker based behavioral tasks, and, more recently, the use of magnetic resonance images data. While there are significant theoretical and practical challenges related to these “neuroscientific” approaches, the results of the studies published so far are encouraging as they suggest that the neuroscientific methods might provide important complementary and integrative results that, following the principle of the convergence of evidence, may strengthen the process of deception detection.

The goal of this Research Topic is to bring together leading experts to present recent advances in deception and detecting deception related problems in court to initiate an intense discussion about the current state of the art and the open controversies regarding both the clinical and the neuroscientific evidence. The aim is thus twofold: first, the current Research Topic aims to provide an updated overview of the techniques currently used to detect deception and malingering in court and of the possible future application of additional techniques. Second, it aims to put together experts opinion on which should be the actual and future role of neuroscientific evidences in court. For this Research Topic we, therefore, welcome original research articles, reviews, method papers, case studies, but also opinion papers and general commentaries that have their core focus on deception and malingering in forensic setting.

Some suggested potential topics are the following:
- How to improve the detection of malingered psychiatric and cognitive symptoms in mental insanity and in damage ascertainment evaluation;
- How to improve the detection of memory related deception in court;
- Are neuroscientific methods welcome in court?
- Do the neuroscientific methods want to replace the classic forensic psychiatry?
- How should the neuroscientific methods be applied into the forensic settings?


Keywords: Malingering, deception, lie detection, mental insanity, psychiatric disorder


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

“Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.”
– Oscar Wilde

Forensic psychiatric assessment is an extremely difficult task that is even more complicated by the risk of deception and malingering, whose evaluation is becoming a cornerstone issue in forensic practice due to their high prevalence (around 40%). Especially in the case of mental insanity evaluation, the assessment of psychiatric and cognitive symptoms become complicated by the fact that, although the majority of offenders found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder had previous contacts with psychiatric services, these symptoms can be easily faked or exaggerated for defensive purposes. This is outstandingly important during the evaluation of defendants who do not have a previous psychiatric history. Furthermore, forensic psychiatric assessment is in itself difficult since it is grounded mainly on the evaluation of what is verbally reported by the examinee, who often have advantages in malingering mental condition in order to attribute responsibility for the crime to an external condition. Previous provocative studies indeed demonstrated that relying upon symptoms reported by the patient is not as reliable as previously thought: for instance, in a famous study conducted in 1973, all the “pseudopatients” feigning hallucinations were diagnosed as schizophrenic. These results, coupled with the dramatically low inter-rater reliability (that ranges from 45.5% to 54.5%) of unstructured psychiatric interviews, highlighted the urgent need to have complementary and integrative results that may strengthen the process to decrease the risk of errors.

In the last few years, there has been increasing interest in the application of cutting edge methods for the detection of deception to aid accurate evaluation in the legal setting. These methodologies included, for instance, a specific neuro-psychological evaluation to test deception and malingering, the application of reaction time or mouse tracker based behavioral tasks, and, more recently, the use of magnetic resonance images data. While there are significant theoretical and practical challenges related to these “neuroscientific” approaches, the results of the studies published so far are encouraging as they suggest that the neuroscientific methods might provide important complementary and integrative results that, following the principle of the convergence of evidence, may strengthen the process of deception detection.

The goal of this Research Topic is to bring together leading experts to present recent advances in deception and detecting deception related problems in court to initiate an intense discussion about the current state of the art and the open controversies regarding both the clinical and the neuroscientific evidence. The aim is thus twofold: first, the current Research Topic aims to provide an updated overview of the techniques currently used to detect deception and malingering in court and of the possible future application of additional techniques. Second, it aims to put together experts opinion on which should be the actual and future role of neuroscientific evidences in court. For this Research Topic we, therefore, welcome original research articles, reviews, method papers, case studies, but also opinion papers and general commentaries that have their core focus on deception and malingering in forensic setting.

Some suggested potential topics are the following:
- How to improve the detection of malingered psychiatric and cognitive symptoms in mental insanity and in damage ascertainment evaluation;
- How to improve the detection of memory related deception in court;
- Are neuroscientific methods welcome in court?
- Do the neuroscientific methods want to replace the classic forensic psychiatry?
- How should the neuroscientific methods be applied into the forensic settings?


Keywords: Malingering, deception, lie detection, mental insanity, psychiatric disorder


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

17 August 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

17 August 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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