Forensic Psychology students visit the Keele Mortuary

By Dr Sarah Krahenbuhl (Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology & Course Leader – BSc Forensic Psychology) and two Level 5 Forensic Psychology students

Students on our BSc (Hons) Forensic Psychology course study a range of modules related to Psychology and Forensic Science, including individual modules focused on Crime Scene Investigation, the Psychology of Crime and Criminal Justice, and Forensic Applications of Psychology.

After completing their studies, many of our Forensic Psychology graduates pursue careers in the police force or a variety of roles working with offenders. As part of this work, many Forensic Psychology graduates may be working on crimes scenes or other settings where they may see a dead body. To help prepare our students for these potential future careers, we recently took a group of our Forensic Psychology students to the Keele University Mortuary. Staff at the Mortuary delivered a number of sessions for our students, including observations of a dead body, seeing how lived experiences (such as smoking or livening in a polluted environment, damage to areas of the brain, undiagnosed aneurysms) affect the body which may only become apparent post mortem, and viewing the Mortuary’s surgical equipment.

Two of our Level 5 Forensic Psychology students who attended the Mortuary visit, Emily and Emily, commented:

“We were taken into the mortuary and shown the cadavers. We were able to see different sections of the body such as the torso, the brain, legs and arms, and a full body. With these different sections we were able to explore actual organs including the brain. This was especially fascinating as psychology students as we were able to see the different areas of the brain that we learn about on our course, and how diseases can be physically shown within the brain. This was especially useful to apply to our Biological Psychology module”

“Another benefit of this trip was to prepare for potential future job areas that a Forensic Psychology student may be interested in, as some jobs may involve viewing the deceased. This also provided an insight into post mortems and anatomy which may be applicable to the forensic field. This trip was not for the faint hearted; you would need a certain mindset to attend this as some students may find this distressing. However, this was a great opportunity and we would definitely recommend that other students take part in this trip in the future.”

Dr Sarah Krahenbuhl (Course Leader, BSc Forensic Psychology) commented: “This was a unique opportunity for our Forensic Psychology students to have direct contact with bodies post mortem, to get some understanding of anatomy, and relate potential theoretical forensic-based experiences to the reality of an individual.”

Please click here for further information about Staffordshire University’s BSc (Hons) Forensic Psychology course.

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For further information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

New research explores how officers conduct investigative interviews with children

Dr Sarah Krähenbühl, Lecturer in Psychology and Forensic Psychology researcher at Staffordshire University, discusses her new research exploring the use of “ground rules” by police officers and social workers when interviewing children:

This study examined over 50 transcripts of investigative interviews conducted with children who were either witnesses to, or victims of, different forms of abuse. The particular focus was when, how and if ground rules were used by the interviewing officers (generally a Police Officer but a Social Worker may take this role) and then to establish the likely impact of this on the child’s understanding and the remainder of the interview.

Ground rules refer to explanations such as shutterstock_131453660 Resizedsay if you don’t know’, ‘tell me if I get something wrong’ and an agreement to tell the truth. The interviewing protocol (known as ‘Achieving Best Evidence’ 2011) states that ground rules should be included in all interviews with children. The study took a mixed methodological approach with numerical assessment of what ground rules were included, when this happened, were there any subsequent repetitions of the rules, and a qualitative approach as to the wording used and implications of this.

The results showed that there was a lack of consistency in ground rule implementation despite clear interviewing protocol guidance. Of greater concern was that when the ground rules were implemented the child’s understanding was not established and the relevance of the ground rules to the remainder of the interview was rarely established. So, this study has relevance not only to interviewing officers and legal professionals but also has implications in relation to assessments of child credibility when giving evidence.

Dr Krähenbühl’s study has recently been accepted for publication by Psychiatry, Psychology and Law and can be accessed via the journal’s website:

Dr Krähenbühl teaches on Staffordshire University’s Forensic Psychology degree – for more information about our degrees please visit the Forensic Psychology course page and the Psychology courses webpages.