Stephen Michael

Ph.D. / Lecturer of Psychology

Maxey Hall 350
(509) 524-2082

Generally speaking, my research examines the role that social and cognitive processes play in issues within the legal system. I became fascinated with these applications of psychology through undergraduate research at Elon University (North Carolina). My interests and experiences there led me to the University of Texas at El Paso where I earned my Ph.D. in Psychology with a concentration in Legal Psychology, and ultimately back to work in a liberal arts environment. I spent two years at Mercer University before joining the psychology department at Whitman.

A majority of my research focuses on the psychological processes that influence deception detection and investigative interviewing techniques. Early on I examined how successful humans are at detecting deception (not very), and the degree to which performance can be improved through training. However, more recently I have focused more on the role of the liar in these interactions. For example, I am studying the roles that cognitive load and language proficiency of the speaker play in perceptions of the statement (i.e., accuracy and bias). Another direction that I am excited to explore further involves the strategic decisions liars make (e.g., sources of memory, impression management). I will be examining the interaction between those choices and processes related to deception (e.g., cognitive load, emotions), and their influence on the liars' behavior and perceptions of the statement. While my primary interests lie in deception, I also dabble in jury decision-making and eyewitness memory research. Ultimately, I hope that a better understanding of the psychology underlying these issues can help inform practice and outcomes in the legal system.