Portrait of Stephen Michael

Senior Lecturer of Psychology

Maxey Hall 350
509-524-2082

Biography

Professor Michael’s research examines the role that social and cognitive processes play in issues within the legal system. He became fascinated with these applications of psychology through undergraduate research at Elon University in North Carolina. His interests and experiences there led him to the University of Texas at El Paso where he earned his Ph.D. in Psychology with a concentration in Legal Psychology. He returned to work in a liberal arts environment where he enjoys engaging with students in and out of the classroom, in a manner similar to those experiences he had as a student.

A majority of Michael’s research has focused on the psychological processes that influence deception detection and investigative interviewing techniques. Early on he examined how successful humans are at detecting deception (not very), and the degree to which performance can be improved through training (a bit). However, more recently he has focused on the role of the liar in these interactions. For example, he has studied 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 he is excited to explore involves the strategic decisions liars make (e.g., sources of memory, impression management). These choices may interact with processes related to deception (e.g., cognitive load, emotions) to influence the liars’ behavior as well as perceptions of the statement. 

While his primary interests lie in deception, Michael has also conducted research on jury decision-making, eyewitness memory, and facial recognition. For example, a recent project examining abilities to accurately match faces with photo IDs focused on the role effects of race and imposter base rate on these judgements. Ultimately, Michael hopes that a better understanding of the psychology underlying these issues can help inform practice and outcomes in the legal system.

Ph.D. Psychology (concentration in Legal Psychology)
Graduate Certificate in Quantitative Analysis
University of Texas El Paso
2013

M.A. Psychology
University of Texas El Paso
2010

B.A. Psychology
Elon University - North Carolina
2008

Dessenberger, S. J., Susa, K. J., & Michael, S. W. (2020). When seconds matter: The influence of testing with micro-delayed feedback. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/stl0000185

Mindthoff, A., Evans, J. R., Perez, G., Woestehoff, S. A., Olaguez, A. P., Klemfuss, J. Z., …Michael, S. W., ... & Meissner, C. A. (2020). Juror perceptions of intoxicated suspects’ interrogation-related behaviors. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 47(2), 222-246. doi: 10.1177/0093854819888962

Mindthoff, A., Evans, J. R., Perez, G., Woestehoff, S. A., Olaguez, A. P., Klemfuss, J. Z., …Michael, S. W., ... & Meissner, C. A. (2018). A survey of potential jurors’ perceptions of interrogations and confessions. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 24(4), 430-448. doi: 10.1037/law0000182

Susa, K. J., Michael, S. W., Dessenberger, S. J., & Meissner, C. A. (2018). Imposter identification in low prevalence environments. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 24(1), 179-193. doi: 10.1111/lcrp.12138

Evans, J. R., Pimental, P. S., Pena, M. M., & Michael, S. W. (2017). The ability to detect false statements as a function of the type of statement and the language proficiency of the statement provider. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 23(3), 290-300. doi: 10.1037/law000127