• The Open University

Forensic Psychology: Witness Investigation

How important are eyewitness testimonies in police investigations? Discover how forensic psychology prevents criminal injustice.

176,825 enrolled on this course

Forensic Psychology: Witness Investigation
  • Duration8 weeks
  • Weekly study3 hours
  • 100% onlineTry this course for free
  • Extra BenefitsFrom $74Find out more

Become a forensic psychologist and help solve crimes using eyewitness evidence

Have you ever questioned how reliable your own mind is? In this 8-week forensic psychology course, you’ll learn how the mind plays tricks on us and how this can impact criminal investigations. You’ll discover how cautious the police have to be during eyewitness investigation, and you’ll step into the shoes of a forensic psychologist.

Explore eyewitness testimonies from a real criminal investigation

In this course, you’ll get the chance to watch real eyewitness testimonies from behind the scenes of a criminal investigation, and it’ll be your job to check how reliable they are.

You’ll start the investigation by learning about witness characteristics and taking witness statements with the police. Then you’ll learn about inattentional and change blindness and discover how to conduct a cognitive interview.

Discover the limits of facial recognition

Explore the psychology of how our minds recognise faces and challenge yourself on your own facial recognition abilities. Are you as good as you think you are?

In this section of the course, you’ll learn why it’s so hard to describe a face accurately and consider the best techniques to obtain an image of the criminal from the mind of the eyewitness.

Crack the case

By the end of the course, you’ll get the opportunity to solve the crime using everything you’ve learned about forensic psychology and eyewitness testimony.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds This course examines the psychology of eyewitnesses and its impact on police investigations– revealing the limitations of the human mind and the dangers for criminal justice. Witnesses often only identify somebody about 40% of the time from a line up. Sometimes the suspect that’s been identified isn’t actually the culprit. The journey begins by exploring some serious miscarriages of justice. Featuring a real eyewitness whose testimony sent the wrong man to prison. I knew there had been misidentification– I mean I knew that. It wasn’t malicious intent, it wasn’t racially motivated– but it didn’t matter, because the end result was Ronald Cotton spent a third of his life in prison for something he didn’t do.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 seconds The course also gives you a chance to follow two investigations of a fictitious crime. And use your cognitive and investigative skills to evaluate the evidence. The course was created by professor Graham Pike, who specialises in eyewitness identification, including E-Fit technology. There are new generation of facial composting systems that are beginning to be used by the police. Graham Pike was also behind a BBC Open University co-production, which is incorporated into the course, and which puts eyewitnesses to the test. By working solely from eyewitness accounts and positive identifications, how close to the truth have they got? Giving you the chance to use what you have learned to solve a crime and compare how you did against a team of real police officers.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 seconds By completing the eight week course, you will have gained some basic knowledge about forensic psychology, gained insights into how your own mind works, and understood the vital role of psychology in police investigations.

What topics will you cover?

  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Witness memory
  • Inattentional blindness and observation of criminal incidents
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Facial recognition
  • Visual identification

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Investigate and understand the psychology of eyewitness testimony
  • Develop your own investigative skills
  • Explore human cognition and discover the mistakes your own brain can make
  • Discuss concepts of criminal investigation
  • Explore and consider the relationship between limitations of the human brain and miscarriages of justice

Who is the course for?

If you’re interested in learning more about forensic psychology and/or criminal investigation, then you will enjoy this course. You do not need any previous experience of studying psychology or criminology.

What do people say about this course?

This course has given me a more comprehensive understanding of the psychology of the human mind and what makes us the people we are. In my role as a Specialist Support Worker, I will be able to effectively put into practice what I have learnt. Thank you.

Sue Ward
Specialist Support Worker

Who will you learn with?

Graham is a psychologist & Professor of Forensic Cognition at the OU, with an interest in applied cognition, particularly how psychological knowledge can be used to obtain evidence from eyewitnesses

Zoe is a psychologist with an interest in how psychology relates to police investigations. She is a senior lecturer in the school of Psychology at the Open University

Who developed the course?

The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

  • Established1969
  • LocationMilton Keynes, UK
  • World rankingTop 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

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