People, Student Profile
Alysha Baker is a forensic psychology researcher who asks tough questions about truthfulness and deception
September 2, 2016
Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
PhD, Experimental Psychology (in progress)
MA, Experimental Psychology (2013), UBC Okanagan
BA, (Honours), Forensic Psychology Specialization (2012), UBC Okanagan
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside UBC’s top forensic experts on research areas in psychopathy, criminal behaviour, and deception.”
NATURAL CURIOSITY. Getting comfortable asking why.
These traits, combined with opportunities in applied research and supervising undergraduate students, transformed Alysha Baker from an admittedly timid psychology student into the 2015 Graduate Researcher of the Year.
Under the guidance of professor Steve Porter, Baker discovered applied forensic research as her passion after taking only one course. “I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside UBC’s top forensic experts on research areas in psychopathy, criminal behaviour, and deception,” she says.
What came from these research collaborations was a question the second-year PhD student wanted to decode: How can you detect whether someone is feeling genuine remorse, versus fake remorse, especially as it applies to the criminal justice system?
GETTING TO THE TRUTH
Baker hopes to find the answers by deciphering “behavioural coding” in communication channels such as body language, facial expressions, verbal content, and physiological changes. Her findings could be instrumental in the education of judges, parole officers, and legal decision makers: properly assessing the truthfulness of remorseful displays means more valid conclusions and rightful outcomes.
The ultimate outcome Baker wants from her UBC experience is a diverse career in consulting, teaching, and research—all the while still fielding questions and stoking her curiosity.
While Baker pursues her doctoral dissertation on remorse, she also coordinates research for the Centre for the Advancement of Psychology in Science & Law (CAPSL), which focuses on issues at the intersection of psychology and the legal system; and she’s also a research assistant in the Porter Forensic Psychology Lab, which investigates criminal psychopathy, forensic aspects of memory, and credibility assessment/deception detection.
RECOGNIZED FOR DEDICATION
Dr. Jan Cioe, associate professor in Psychology—and a faculty member of CAPSL alongside Drs. Porter, Zach Walsh, and Michael Woodworth—paints Baker as a key asset to the centre’s research, which aims to lead to legal/investigative reforms, advances in clinical practice, and improved training for forensic professionals.
“What sets Alysha apart is her dedication to research and her drive to get it right,” Cioe says. “She’s developed a very sophisticated understanding of the nature of forensic psychology and applied it in a way that is particularly valuable because she’s interested in what it means in the real world.”
Baker’s accomplishments keep adding up: As of Spring 2015, she’s co-authored seven manuscripts accepted for publication, with five manuscripts under review. She supervises undergraduate students and has been selected for a number of research assistantships. She completed a two-year master’s degree in one year, has presented at global conferences, and won numerous awards.
Among Baker’s academic awards is a 2014 doctoral scholarship for $105,000, awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. It was bestowed on her through the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships Program under the title “An empirical examination of remorse displays and their subjective appraisal in parole and prison contexts.”