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Psychology and Law Research Lab

Dr. Vanessa Edkins’ research occurs at the intersection of psychology and the legal system. Her lab uses social psychology theories to address various phenomena related to the legal system. Some of the current topics being investigated in the the Psychology and Law Research Lab include:

Plea bargaining

What factors in a case lead a defense attorney to recommend that his/her client accept a plea? Some of Dr. Edkins' findings suggest that the race of the client may have an effect with more African American clients encouraged to accept a plea deal (and avoid trial) than Caucasian clients.

Will individuals plead guilty to crimes that they did not commit? The lab’s research suggests that if the inducements are favorable enough, people will admit to something they didn’t do. Another question under investigation is if this tendency is different for different cultures.

How do the contingencies attached to being found guilty of a crime influence decisions to plead guilty? Current research is investigating the effects of the collateral consequences tied to guilty pleas (e.g., loss of public housing, loss of professional licenses, etc.)

Race and the legal system

How does the race of victims and offenders affect the charges and the outcomes in a murder case? Looking at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree murders in Florida over a 5-year period, the lab is investigating whether charges increased or decreased over the life of the case, and how demographics predict case outcomes.

If a city’s police force finds themselves in trouble for a racially-charged situation, or if they are simply trying to increase relations with minorities in the community, what appeals to the public should they make?

How do stereotypes affect defendant interactions at each stage of the criminal justice system?

The lab has both undergraduate and graduate student researchers working on the projects. For undergraduate students, course credit may be an option. Please contact Dr. Edkins for more information.

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