• The Open University

Forensic Psychology: Witness Investigation

Discover how psychology can help obtain evidence from eyewitnesses in police investigations and prevent miscarriages of justice.

201,071 enrolled on this course

Witness investigation – a suspect in a police lineup

Forensic Psychology: Witness Investigation

201,071 enrolled on this course

  • 8 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

Try to solve a crime using nothing but eyewitness evidence

Despite advances in forensic science, eyewitness testimony remains a critical component of criminal investigations. But psychological research has revealed the dangers of relying on this testimony and how careful the police must be when questioning witnesses.

Using videos of real witnesses, from behind the scenes of a police investigation, this course explores the psychology of eyewitness testimony.

You will get the chance to test your own cognitive skills and see if your investigative powers are as good as police officers’, as you try to solve a crime using nothing but eyewitness evidence.

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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 join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

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?

This course is intended for those with an interest in psychology and/or criminal investigation, and does not require any previous experience of studying either subject.

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."

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

Zoë is a psychologist with an interest in how psychology relates to police investigations. She is a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology and Counselling at the Open University

Who developed the course?

The Open University

As the UK’s largest university, The Open University (OU) supports thousands of students to achieve their goals and ambitions via supported distance learning, helping to fit learning around professional and personal life commitments.

  • Established

    1969
  • Location

    Milton Keynes, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save

$27.99 /month

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$69/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access

Free

Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 28 Jan 2023

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Learning on FutureLearn

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  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

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  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
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  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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