Explain potential implications of ambiguity in terminology, such as “likely” or “probably,” in investigative settings.

 

Forensic Psychology and Criminal Investigation
PART 1 –
Likelihood of Inferences Made Based on Phrasing
When words are spoken, written biases, heuristics, and tendencies are introduced. In this Discussion, you analyse perceptions of probability or certainty based on the phrasing utilised in conveying messages. For this Discussion, select one of the following pairs of statements and rate the likelihood that each of the events will occur in the form of a percentage (0 will not occur; 100 will definitely occur):
Statements
Pair 1
• It is likely that a hurricane will strike the Caribbean this summer.
• It is likely that a hurricane will strike mainland Europe this winter.
Pair 2
• It is possible that the offender will kill another victim.
• It is possible that the offender will return to the crime scene.
Label your essay with the name of the pair of statements you selected.
Questions:
1. State the pair of statements you selected with the corresponding percentage you assigned to each.
2. Explain your rationale for the percentages you provided.
3. Finally, explain potential implications of ambiguity in terminology, such as “likely” or “probably,” in investigative settings.

Make sure you support your response with references to the literature and Learning Resources.

PART 2 – 750 WORDS
Strength of BIAs’ Inferences
Inferences made by BIAs are only as good as the empirical backing or support on which they are based. In this Hand-in Assignment, you evaluate the strength of inferences made by BIAs and revise the inferences to improve their strength. In order to prepare for this assignment, review this week’s Learning Resources.
Inferences
Inference 1
The rapist is likely to have a previous conviction for sexual offences. This is supported by the fact that the offender was known to have worn a condom, and research shows that the odds of having a previous conviction for sexual offences are almost four times greater for offenders who made efforts to avoid leaving semen than for those who make no such efforts. However, should the witness report on re-interview that the offender only applied the condom after engaging in oral sex, such an inference would be nullified.
Inference 2
Initial searches for the child’s remains should focus on an area 100 yards from the abduction site. Specific research (Boudreaux et al, 1999) that focussed on the abduction of pre-school children (the victim in this case is 3 years of age) revealed that victims’ remains were disposed of within 100 yards of the abduction site in 50% of cases.
Assignment questions:
1. Explain which inference concerning the unknown offender is stronger and why.
2. Based on the Toulminian philosophy of argument, explain how each inference might be improved to provide a stronger argument.
3. Justify your response with references to the Toulminian philosophy of argument and Learning Resources.
Support your Hand-in Assignment with specific references to all resources used in its preparation.
Required Resources
• Weekly Notes should be read before the remaining Learning Resources.
• Core Text: Villejoubert, G., Almond, L., & Alison, L. (2011). Interpreting claims in offender profiles: The roles of probability phrases, base-rates and perceived dangerousness. In L. Alison & L. Rainbow (Eds.), Professionalizing offender profiling: Forensic and investigative psychology in practice (pp. 206–227). London, England: Routledge.
• Core Text: Almond, L., Alison, L., & Porter, L. (2011). An evaluation and comparison of claims made in behavioural investigative advice reports compiled by the National Policing Improvement Agency in the United Kingdom. In L. Alison & L. Rainbow (Eds.), Professionalizing offender profiling: Forensic and investigative psychology in practice (pp. 250–263). London, England: Routledge.
• Article: Alison, L., Smith, M. D., Eastman, O., & Rainbow, L. (2003). Toulmin’s philosophy of argument and its relevance to offender profiling. Psychology, Crime and Law, 9(2), 173–183
• Article: Bonnefon, J., & Villejoubert, G. (2006). Tactful, or doubtful? Expectations of politeness explain the severity bias in the interpretation of probability phrases. Psychological Science, 17(9), 747–751.
• Article: Teigen, K., & Brun, W. (1995). Yes, but it is uncertain: Direction and communicative intention of verbal probabilistic terms. Acta Psychologica, 88(3), 233–258.
• Article: Weber, E., & Hilton, D. (1990). Contextual effects in the interpretation of probability words: Perceived base rate and severity of events. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 16(4), 781–789.


 

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