False memories in sexual assault trials

*Trigger warning is in effect*

Spontaneous false memories are a common occurrence. Well intended, honest people often remember scenes they have not actually experienced, or unwittingly replace a detail of an event by another. In court, this kind of false memories make the pursuit of justice challenging, particularly in sexual assault cases, which often hinge exclusively on witness testimony. Fortunately, psychological research on false memories has advanced greatly in the past decades, and, nowadays, can help jurors and judges decide if a testimony, or a portion of it, is reliable.

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BC Injury Prevention Conference: puzzles and answers

Last week, at the at the BC Injury Prevention Conference 2010, some presenters and attendants put forward interesting questions that manifest inconsistencies in people’s behaviour and perception of risk:

  • Why parents have their children wear bicycle helmets, but still refuse to use them?
  • Why more than 70% of Canadians think they drive better than others? Does this indicate that education campaigns have failed?1
  • Why gang related crime gets more police and media attention than road crashes, when the latter produces way more fatalities than the former?1

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Statistics are lies!? Damn not!

Mr. Goldstein’s belief that statistics are lies is largely fuelled by misconceptions about statistics and its role in decision making. Sadly, this kind of uninformed opinions had a lot to do with the absurd proposal to make Canada’s census voluntary.

I know this post is two weeks late and I am sorry about that. Still, better late than never.

This is a reply to Lorrie Goldstein’s column, “Stats, smoke and mirrors”, in which he rants about crime rates and Statistics Canada―the Canadian statistics agency. In my opinion, his diatribe is foolish, unfair and uninformed.

In an effort to be straightforward, this is what I will discuss:

  1. If decision makers don’t know how to use statistics, then they are the problem; don’t blame statistics for that.
  2. Mr. Goldstein’s “analysis” of crime rates is useless and superficial.

Continue reading “Statistics are lies!? Damn not!”

Re: Can YOU stop impaired driving?

The “benefits of [a sobriety check] campaign may not depend on drivers’ being personally exposed to a checkpoint, but rather on their knowing that others have.” Thus, local media can aid sobriety check campaigns, by announcing how many have been checked and how many didn’t pass. Media coverage, in turn, will increase the perceived risks of being caught in by the police.

This is a blog response to the post “Can YOU stop impaired driving?” in which Sergeant Tim Burrows calls for ideas on how to tackle this problem. Here, I present my two cents:

First, don’t use threats of physical harm or death in your communications, because this kind of message is not effective with the target groups for which it is intended: male drivers and sensation seekers (this term refers to a personality trait that is associated with risk-taking and impaired driving)1, 2. Moreover, some studies suggest that these messages can be counterproductive, because they induce denial (“this won’t happen to me”) and self-enhancement attitudes (“I am a better driver than the people in the ad”).

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Audience analytics for road safety: personality traits

In order to be effective at educating the public, road safety campaigns must answer basic questions about drivers: who are they? Are there any identifiable groups? What gets their attention? How to communicate effectively with each of them? In this post, I will these questions in terms of personality traits. As I will describe, psychological research on this area has proven to be very useful for road safety and injury prevention in general.

In order to be effective at educating the public, road safety campaigns must answer basic questions about drivers: who are they? Are there any identifiable groups? What gets their attention? How to communicate effectively with them? In this post, I will answer these questions in terms of personality traits, because psychological research on this area has proven to be very useful for road safety and injury prevention in general.

Continue reading “Audience analytics for road safety: personality traits”

Update:Gulf of Mexico disaster may distort perception about risks of oil tanker traffic

In a previous post, I pointed out that the recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, might cause people to overestimate the risks oil spills. I also expressed my concern with Metro Vancouver’s decision to evaluate the risks of oil tanker traffic just while the events on and off the coasts of Florida are unfolding.

In a previous post, I pointed out that the recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, might cause people to overestimate the risks oil spills. I also expressed my concern with Metro Vancouver’s decision to evaluate the risks of oil tanker traffic just while the events on and off the coasts of Florida are unfolding.

Continue reading “Update:Gulf of Mexico disaster may distort perception about risks of oil tanker traffic”

“Drinking and Driving CounterAttack”: does science support tougher laws?

Drinking and driving CounterAttack is the current road safety campaign by the Province of British Columbia, ICBC and police departments around the region. While some people disagree with its core policy (harsher penalties start at alcohol levels of .05), I contend that science supports it.

Drinking and driving CounterAttack is the current road safety campaign by the Province of British Columbia, ICBC and police departments around the region. While some people disagree with its core policy (harsher penalties start at alcohol levels of .05), I contend that science supports it. Continue reading ““Drinking and Driving CounterAttack”: does science support tougher laws?”