Justice at risk! An evaluation of a pseudoscientific analysis of a witness’ nonverbal behavior in the courtroom

Vincent Denault, Louise Marie Jupe

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Abstract

Psychology and law have developed as disciplines through rigorous data collection, exploration and analysis, and the publication of findings through peer-review processes. Such findings are then used to implement evidence-based practices within a variety of settings. However, in parallel to factually and scientifically based knowledge, ‘alternative’ science, or pseudoscience, has gained in popularity. The present case study aims to evaluate the empirical evidence and theoretical underpinnings of a publically accessible analysis of a suspected serial killer’s nonverbal behavior during a bond hearing published online by two ‘synergologists’. The case study emphasizes how a ‘synergological’ analysis to understanding and interpreting human behavior fails to use empirical data, making generalized inferences based on erroneous assumptions. The case study also highlights the detrimental effects such assumptions may have within the justice system and why pseudoscientific analytical approaches should be vigorously challenged by research scientists.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology
Early online date27 Jul 2017
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 27 Jul 2017

Keywords

  • synergology
  • behavioral analysis
  • pseudoscience
  • nonverbal communication

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