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Forensic Psychology Investigative Techniques: Analysis of Polygraph

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Chapter 1. Introduction

In the following study, an effort is made to examine the difference between the electrical activities of the brain to the participatory activities memories and of memories being only the audience or the witness of any event during recall if looked from forensic aspect using Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature (BEOS), developed by Dr. C.R. Mukundan (Mukundan,1998). Our human brain stores different sets of memory for different events. Our understanding of the brain from physiological perspectives would be greatly enhanced if we could differentiate between memory for experience and knowledge. This study will help in understanding the difference in memory signatures stored when an event was experienced through participation as compared to remembrance based on knowing or witnessing the events. Very few researches have been reported yet using the BEOS profiling system on episodic memory-based remembrance of an event. There is a need to understand the episodic-based remembrance and the brain responses for making it helpful in wider area for the better understanding of people involved in crime. BEOS profiling is used both in neuropsychology for understanding brain, its parts, and memory system, and in forensic psychology for detecting deception mainly used in the forensic science laboratories.

To understand the research first need to understand memory, its process of Rememberance, forensic psychology, and some of the investigative techniques used for detection of deception.

1.1. Memory

Memory can be defined as “the ability to take in, store and retrieve information” to be able to make sense while understanding to patients, families and caregivers. In simple words, the term memory can be explained as the ability to receive, store, and retrieve information. Memory is conceptualized as a process consisting of 3 independent, though interrelated stages, namely: Encoding, Storage, and Retrieval that will be discussed later.

Baddley (1992) had discussed memory as not single skill or a function but rather a complex combination of memory subsystems. Memory can be considered in terms of time for which memories are stored, the type of information to be remembered, the way a information is received in, stages in process of remembering, implicit or explicit memory, whether recall or recognition is required, whether the memory is retrospective or prospective, and whether the memory dates from before or after the injury or illness, as stated by Clare and Wilson,(1997).

Tulving (1972) found the concept of semantic and episodic memory, with semantic memory referring to memory for general knowledge such as facts, the meaning of words, the visual appearance of objects, and the color of things. Any reality that encounters impact resulting conduct is proof of an undeniable yet the by momentous action known as recall.

Human memory have been studied and experimented from many decades. Many researchers namely, Baddeley and Hitch (1974) and Tulving (1972) have introduced concepts and types of memory. Memory is result of both result of and an influence on perception, attention, and learning. The ability to solve any problem or even for recognizing the existence of problem is dependent on memory itself.

1.1.1 Stages in process of Remembrance:

There are 3 stages required for a memory system to function. The first and foremost stage is encoding that includes of taking in of information, next is the storage stage, and the third stage is retrieval stage.

  1. The first stage is also known as the Encoding, this refers to process by which information is recorded and registered for the first tme , it becomes as usable by our memory system. During encoding, incoming information is received and a meaning is extracted. Then represented in such a way so that the information can be processed for further stages.
  2. The second stage is Storage of memory. The encoded information through which information is retained and held over a period of time.
  • The third stage of memory is retrieval. It refers to bringing the stored information to their awareness so that it can be used for performing various cognitive tasks. To make sure that the person has understood the information being presented.

If encoding is not completed properly, person will not be able to recall any information of the event due to impairment in the processing stages. Most people forget new information rather swiftly over the first few days and then the rate of forgetting slows down.

According to Baddley(1992), deeper encoding involves elaboration, compatibility, and self-reference. Crack and Lockhart (1972) gave the levels of processing. This states that the processing of any new information relates to the manner in which it is perceived, analysed, and understood which in turn determines the extent to which it will eventually be retained. Godden and Baddley (!975) conducted an inspiring experiment, in that experiment they showed the context specificity principle. Crack and Lockhart found that it is possible to analyze the incoming information at more than one level.

According to Stage model proposed by Akinson and Shiffrin (1968), there are 3 types of memory systems :

  • Sensory Memory

It is a memory system that registers information from each of the senses with reasonable accuracy.

  • Short-term Memory

Information that is attended to enter the second memory store called the short term memory (STM), which holds small amount of information for a brief period of time.

  • Long-term Memory

‘Long Term Memory (LTM) refers to information which is stored sufficiently durably to be accessible over a period of anything more than a few seconds. (Baddley)

One major classification is Declarative and Non- Declarative memories. Tulving stated another classification and found that the declarative memory can be either Episodic or Semantic, which involves remembering particular incidents.

1.1.2 Episodic Memory

It contains biographical details of our lives. The memories relating to a person’s personal life experiences include the contents generally emotional in nature. Tulving (2002) states that Episodic memory refers to the ability to mentally time travel into the past and to remember personal experiences in terms of what happened and where and when it happened and to be autonoetically aware of it.

Breeden et al (2016) found that episodic memories are extremely useful for solving problems in the present and to plan for the future. It has been reported that various researches have been conducted on the episodic memory, its physiology, progress of episodic memory till date in researches.

It can be noted that experiences can be of painful, unpleasant, and happy as emotions are of two types; positive and negative emotions. Either of the types of emotional impact involved with any event in a person’s life. There are some memories reported to be as pleasant life experiences.

1.1.3 Semantic Memory

Semantic Memory is the memory of general mindfulness and learning. All ideas, thoughts, and tenets of rationale are put away in semantic memory. (NCERT, 2006).

Semantic Memory is viewed as influence impartial and not prone to overlooking, as it substance of memory identified with realities and thoughts of general mindfulness and information.

Basically, semantic memory deals with the information of having familiarity with event-specific details. But this can not be termed as Remembrance. Rather, it is related to the facts of events which is knowing of any event and not having experience to it personally.

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1.2 Forensic psychology

The term forensis is derived from the Latin word pertaining to the forum. In English, the term forensic or forensis is derived from its Greek root. Over the years, the term forensic has evolved to refer to anything pertaining or potentially pertaining to the courts or law, both civil and criminal, and due to the nature and scope of work that forensics covers, the term is usually concerned with the law. Hugo Munsterberg (1908) is often referred to as the first forensic psychologist.

Forensic psychology is a sub-discipline of psychology that involves the application of psychological principles and research to the law and offenders (Bartol and Bartol, 1999). Wrightsman (2001) applied the term forensic psychology to describe the intersection of the legal system and psychology.

The field of criminological brain science has seen critical development as of late. In reality in any case, legal analysts can be discovered working ‘in detainment facilities, correctional facilites, recovery focuses, police offices, law offices, schools, government offices, or in private practice’ (Mauro, 2010).

1.4 Forensic psychology investigative techniques

Following are the investigative techniques used in forensic psychology for detection of deception:

  • Polygraph
  • Narcoanalysis
  • Interview and interrogation
  • Forensic hypnosis
  • Psychological testings
  • Brain Electrical Oscillations Signature Profiling

1.4.1 Polygraph

The Polygraph is based on scientific principles in the field of forensic investigation for the unveiling of deception or whether the person is genuine based on recordings of measuring changes in parameters namely Blood pressure, Pulse rate, respiration, and galvanic skin response(GSR) are used as reliable technique.

The following instrument is more commonly known as the fact finder or the lie detector. The above-mentioned parameters are recorded simultaneously and uninterruptedly on the surface of moving graph paper driven by a mechanism known as kymograph, in earlier days. In present time the graph is recorded on computer screen driven by software.

It is comprised of a Pre-test interview, main polygraph examination and ending with a post-test interview, and re examination, if eventually intended. Following are the methods of conducting questionnaires for obtaining desired response in physiological form:

  1. Relevant Irrelevant questionnaire technique
  2. Controlled question technique (CQT)
  3. Peak of tension technique
  4. Guilt complex test

Research have been reported stating that the modern polygraph, which recorded changes in a number of physiological parameters, was developed in the early 1920s, with instruments designed to record changes in respiration, cardiovascular activity, and sweat gland activity appearing in the 1930s.

1.4.2 Narcoanalysis

Narcoanalysis is also commonly known as the truth serum in common language, is a combination of hypnosis as well as narcosis. It is a very old and well-known technique widely use in medical profession all over the world including India. Bleckwena (1929) used Sodium Amytal to patients by mouth for the first time, for creating of hypnosis in patients whom he could not hypnotize by the usual methods.

The term Narcoanalysis was first used by Horsley. Although this technique is an old-time technique in mental health setup. It is investigative or preventive while used in non-medical purposes in a forensic setup as an invasive technique. It is a matter of debate till date in courts regarding the reliability, credibility and its admissibility to courts while making judgments considering their reports as an evidence.

1.4.3 Interview and interrogation

The interview and interrogation are correlative but structurally different processes. The interview is just an assembling documentation process. In other words, also described as a conversation between two or more people preferably face to face whatever relevant information is available. It is itself a norm suggestive process. (Vaya, 2013)

Whereas, the interrogation aim to recommend the guilty to confess to their involvement in a crime or other incident. Interrogation is highly structured and focused which is carefully followed by a ten-step procedure known as Integrated Interrogation Technique. (Vaya, 2013)

1.4.4 Forensic Hypnosis

The term hypnosis was first introduced by an English physician namely James Braid. Goldenson (1984) found that it is an altered state of consciousness, characterized by relaxation a heightened responsiveness to suggestion, and increase in attention. In India, forensic hypnosis has not been found to be in use in police investigations.

1.4.5 Psychological testings

Psychological assessment is defined as an evaluation performed by a psychologist using methods and tools that are in large part and outgrowth of instrumentation, procedures, and principles identified with clinical psychologists and field of test and instruments. Forensic psychological assessment is an important footstep in understanding the behavior of the suspect with reference to the crime.

Frequently used tests in civil and criminal cases taken from Indian scenario includes Test of attention and concentration (Letter cancellation and digit span), test for memory (Weschler’s memory scales and other memory scales), Tests for intelligence (Bhatia battery of intelligence, Raven’s progressive matrices ), Objective tests (16PF, Eyesenk’s Personality inventory), Projective techniques (Rorschach ink blot, Thematic apperception technique, Draw a Person) following tests are used for forensic purposes in India.

1.4.6 Brain Electrical Oscillations Signature Profiling system.

The following name was given by the Directorate of Forensic Sciences, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. It was Developed and tested by Dr. C.R. Mukundan. Brand name of equipment is- Neuro Signature System(NSS). NSS is a technique for extracting a signature of electrical oscilllations from the background electrical activity of the brain of a subject by presenting a probe. Contains reference to an “Experiental Knowledge(EK)” in the subject to an act committed by the person, which is reffered in the probe. The probe make the subject become aware of the experience or the action, if he or she has committed the same. During recall of EK , the subject recalls the autobiographical information related to the occurence of the event and subject’s participation in the act. Signature is measured as frequency-time domain activity during or immediately after the presentation of the probe.

Absence of experience is associated with absence of remembrance and absence of corresponding electrical signature. EK is gained through participation in an activity and consists of sensory-motor information, proprioceptive information, emotions, and real-time awareness, if present. Probe evokes the psychological state alike to the state the person had at the time of the occurence of the event. The test measures remembrance of the experience or autobiographical information. It consists of sensory-motor mental imageries associated with experience and awareness of internal processing or rememberance. Electrical activity associated to rememberance is called as “signature” of the experience. The process is defined as the retrieval of the EK. Absence of EK results in absence of the signature. This process was earlier known as Brain Fingerprinting

Hundreds of clinical studies have shown that p300 is a very sensitive measure, as the body temperature is, but it has no diagnostic specificity as body temperature does not have diagnostic specificity. p300 has not been used in a single case for identification of the criminal.

BEOS profiling is for testing the presence of Experiential Knowledge in a person and not more testing mere presence or possession of knowledge. Experiential Knowledge is acquired through participation and not by knowing. The required four components for experience are listed below:

  1. Sensory information
  2. Motor acts & responses
  3. Proprioceptive information
  4. Emotions

Probes are generally catogorised into four types; Neutral probe, Control probes, set –A scenario probes and Set –B scenario probes. There are several scientifically designed guidelines which includes in total of 21 types of probes IDs, also termed as Event Markers, which needs to followed for preparation of probes to be presented.

1.5 Hypothesis:

H1= People involved in Participatory activities have more impactful memories be able to elicit in the form of (EK) EXPERIENTAL KNOWLEDGE using (NSS) Neuro Signature System involved in BEOS profiling than to when compared to the memories of Audience or can be called as the Eyewitness of any event.


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  3. Patel AN., “Neuro- Psychological Assessment of the Suspect by Applying Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature (BEOS) Profiling Test to Verify BEOS Principle”. The International Journal of Indian Psychology Volume 3, Issue 3, No.2, DIP: 18.01.036/20160303


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