After the Webinar: Crime Scene Decision Making. Q&A with Dr. Gabrielle Salfati

Webinar presenter Dr. Gabrielle Salfati answered a number of your questions after her webinar, Crime Scene Decision Making. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: Can you provide a couple of examples of asking good questions or better questions in the investigative process to help illustrate your point? 

Gabrielle Salfati: Yes, absolutely. So, you’re looking at a crime scene, and you have a lot of different pieces of information. Where should your decision-making process start? Because where you start is going to influence everything else that happens in your brain, and consequently your decision-making. So, if you look at some questions might be, well, is this thing that sticks out that is vivid, is that important? Or is it just leading me astray? And I’m letting it influence my opinion about everything else that has happened. And then other questions would be when I’m in front of these, what are the steps I need to take in my decision-making in order to decide whether this one element that is sticking out is actually important for me? And that is when you would then acknowledge and become aware that you’re operating, and you’re being influenced in your System One type of thinking with heuristics, it’s sticking out, it’s vivid. But, because you now know this is happening, you will step to the side and say, “Okay, I need to engage in System Two thinking and get some information that will help me decide whether this piece of information that I feel this gut feeling about is important because it speaks out is actually important.”


Audience Question: You talked about how memories can be nudged or influenced based on the words used that prompt the memories? How does this change or influence how investigators and prosecutors do their jobs when working with witness testimony? What should they be doing differently? 

Gabrielle Salfati: So, this is a huge area of psychology. There are a lot of experts who’ve done research on this. Due to knowing this, the way that we interview witnesses, for example, we have to be extremely careful about the words that we use, and there’s actually training on this now. So that when people are interviewed, they’ve done so the interviews in a way whereby the investigator knows how to get an… It is a long answer. But essentially, being aware that your words matter. We want to make sure we don’t prime our witnesses. And so, this word “prime” is one that you will hear a lot about in the field of interviewing, which is a huge field of psychology.


Audience Question: Based on the exercise that we all did during the webinar. It seems like maybe relying on witness accounts might not be a great use of time or if it nothing else. We should be cautious about heavily relying on them. What’s your advice on how to use eyewitness accounts and the investigative process? 

Gabrielle Salfati: So, I think that the biggest thing to think about is eye witness accounts are important in the investigation. But what we need to do is we need to understand how their memories and their perceptions are influenced. And having that awareness, we then are equipped with control over how we use that information when we know, so we can then check whether it was in fact influenced. Knowing that they are influenced, we also know that their procedures in place, getting to the information in more appropriate ways so that we don’t influence that process. So, it’s all about becoming an aware decision-maker. We can’t stop witnesses from perceiving things in a certain way. We can’t stop us making decisions. But knowing that there are things that are influencing us, puts us in a position of control. And where we can deliberately choose how to go ahead and make those decisions based on the information that we have, which is often very, very messy on so many levels.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Crime Scene Decision Making

Additional Resources
2 years ago
Offender Profiling and Serial Sexual Offences: The Latest Science
Offender Profiling is a process that aims to narrow down the suspect pool and prioritize the most li […]
2 years ago
Thoughts about Humanness from Dr. Gabrielle Salfati
We, the country and our profession has been through SO much these last few years. That's why we just […]
2 years ago
Linking Serial Sexual Offenses: The Latest Science
Police work is more than just patrolling the streets and catching people committing offenses. They a […]
3 years ago
Investigative Psychology: The Latest Science on Offender Profiling & Linking Serial Crimes
Apart from the forensic science, another aspect of investigation that people find fascinating is the […]