Faculty and students at UBC now have a brand-new space to pursue the latest research in the field of forensic psychology. The Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law (CAPSL) has just opened in the new Arts and Sciences Phase II building at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
Designed to emerge as a nationally and internationally renowned centre for forensic psychological research, practice and training, the Centre focuses on four key areas at the cross-section of psychology and law:
- personality/psychopathy and aggression
- investigative psychology (deception, memory)
- legal decision-making
- violence interventions and victim services
“The Centre will be a focal point for cutting-edge research in psychology and law that will result in basic scientific knowledge and empirically-based practice,” says Stephen Porter, director of CAPSL and UBC professor of psychology.
A distinctive feature of CAPSL is its focus on victim, offender, and community populations.
“In terms of victim-focused research, we’ll aim to examine protective factors and risk factors for the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the relation between trauma and memory, and the development of interventions to reduce the consequences of victimization,” says Porter.
Offender research will include clinical, lab-based, and longitudinal studies — cognitive, physiological, clinical, and social — on the nature of predatory aggression, domestic violence, and sexual violence.
“Regarding community research, CAPSL will conduct controlled experiments and field research addressing key issues in deception detection, witness-memory/false memory and legal decision-making,” adds Porter.
In addition to Porter, the CAPSL faculty research team includes Michael Woodworth, Associate Professor of Psychology, and Zach Walsh, Assistant Professor of psychology. All either practice or intend to practice as registered forensic psychologists, relying on the science generated at the CAPSL to inform their consulting activities. According to Porter, doctoral student Leanne ten Brinke also was a key player in the successful grant applications that led to the creation of the CAPSL.
“Knowledge generated at CAPSL will benefit Canadians by helping to prevent violence, developing intervention strategies for assisting victims of crime, and improving both the investigation of criminal activity and decisions made in the courtroom,” says Porter. “Ultimately, our research could lead to legal and investigative reforms, advances in clinical practice, and improved training for forensic professionals.”
The 1,265-square-foot facility is funded by a federal research grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation ($165,314), the provincial government (British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund; $165,314), and UBC ($37,105). The Centre will provide enhanced opportunity for undergraduate and graduate research on campus and help advance partnerships and collaborations with professional groups within the justice system.
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