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A comparison between self-reported attitudes and physiological reactions to the criminal justice system

This project explores whether there is a difference between reported attitudes about the criminal justice system (CJS) and physiological reactions using an electroencephalogram (EEG) analysis.

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Rosa Sigman
Police region
South East
Collaboration and partnership

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Hampshire.

Level of research
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

There is a great deal of literature that outlines the limitations associated with self-reported data. Despite this, self-reported methods remain an economical and efficient way to collect large amounts of data from target populations. They are regularly used by the government to collect data pertaining to public attitudes towards criminal justice (for example, The Crime Survey for England and Wales).

This study will be exploring participants’ self-reported attitudes on a variety of topics surrounding the criminal justice system. After completing the self-reported questionnaire, participants will be exposed to word stimuli whilst having their physiological reactions measured with an electroencephalogram (EEG) scan.

Physiological reactions have been used to assess levels of racial discrimination (Volpe and others, 2019), how physiological reactions related to self-reported attitudes and to assess whether self-reporting and physiological reactions are aligned (Volpe and others, 2019). Assessing physiological reactions can negate the social desirability effects that can influence self-reported attitudes. Physiological reactions that are measured through an EEG can indicate responses such as fear, disgust, anger, and pleasure.

The aim of this research is to investigate whether there is a difference between self-reported attitudes and physiological reactions towards the criminal justice system. Due to there being no previous research comparing self-reported beliefs and physiological reactions to the criminal justice system, there is no directional hypothesis for this research as it is not possible to make any assumptions on the potential interactions between the self-reported data and the physiological reactions. 

Research methodology

The study will use a correlational design whereby all participants complete all tasks in this study. A repeated measures design will be undertaken, with a sample of 20 to 30 participants first completing an online questionnaire, followed by the EEG task.

EEG measures are focused on the electrical activity within the brain and the electrical activity can be associated with areas of the brain indicating emotions such as disgust and anger. EEG responses will be analysed for emotional reactions and compared to self-reported data.

Participants must be over 18 to ensure the EEG data is suitably comparable. 

Research participation

Volunteers are still required for this study. Please email the primary researcher Rosa Sigman at [email protected] for further information. 

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