Capital punishment juries in question in O.C.

Juries could increasingly favor the death penalty, despite declining public support, Social Ecology professor finds.

When the case of Scott Dekraai – who pled guilty to murdering eight people in a Seal Beach salon in 2011 – goes to the sentencing phase of the trial, more than one-third of potential jurors could be rejected based on their beliefs about the death penalty.

The consequence? A jury that could be tilted in favor of capital punishment, even as national polls show that fewer and fewer people support it, according to a recent paper published in the Yale Law Journal by Nicholas Scurich, an associate professor in the School of Social Ecology.

Hallucinations in an 8 by 10 cell: Do prisoners sent to isolation ever recover?

New book by Keramet Reiter chronicles the rise of modern long-term solitary confinement.

In the 1980s, incarceration rates were skyrocketing and prison officials were anxious because of inmate unrest in the previous decade.

To house the prisoners – and to sequester those deemed most dangerous – prison officials designed and built with little public oversight a suite of technologically advanced maximum security prisons. The facilities were cleaner than the squalid, poorly-lit, unsanitary isolation cells that officials had been using to lock up prisoners accused of fomenting unrest and threatening security.

Older, denser neighborhoods offer better access to everyday destinations, MFI study finds

Proximity of homes to restaurants and stores reduces traffic congestion, CO2 emissions

Residents of older, denser, lower-income neighborhoods and smaller, multifamily homes in Southern California can more easily access commonly frequented sites such as grocery stores, restaurants, clothing stores and gas stations, according to a recent report from the University of California, Irvine.

A research team with the School of Social Ecology’s Metropolitan Futures Initiative calculated the number of everyday destinations within a mile of each of the region’s more than 5 million homes. Closer destinations mean less driving, decreased traffic congestion and lower carbon emissions.

Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology is 5th most affordable in U.S.

April 2017

The SR Education Group has ranked the School of Social Ecology's Master in Legal and Forensic Psychology (MLFP) the 5th most affordable Online Master's of Psychology program in the United States. The list is a compilation of especially affordable degree programs across the U.S. In the MLFP program, students focus on the intersection of psychology and legal issues.

Learn more:

The universality of awe and the way it makes you a better person

April 2017

Awe seems to transcend human culture in a way that little else does.

Paul Piff, assistant professor of psychology and social behavior traveled to the Namibian desert with grad students to learn how the deeply traditional and seminomadic Himba people experience awe. Cooking on an open fire underneath a blanket of stars, the grad students and Himba people all were transfixed by the constellations above, Piff says in Sierra Magazine. "Different things inspire awe for different cultures, but the sky did it for all of us," he says. "Awe might be a universal experience that’s been built into the human system ... and one that we share with people around the world."

Granger appointed Chancellor's Professor

April 2017

Doug Granger, director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research and a professor of psychology and social behavior, public health, and pediatrics has been appointed a Chancellor's Professor. The appointment took effect April 1 and is reserved for exceptional scholars who have demonstrated unusual academic merit and exhibit high promise for continued achievement.

Sleep deprivation: one reason people give false confessions

April 2017

Innocent people frequently confess to crimes they never committed, and false confessions are, in fact, responsible for 25 percent of exonerations resulting from DNA evidence, according to an essay in Time featuring Psychology and Social Behavior Professor Beth Loftus.

A false confession often starts with police officers presuming guilt, then seeking to detect signs in the suspect's demeanor and voice. Then, they coerce the subject, sometimes with lies about evidence against the suspect. Finally, the police prompt a detailed confession by asking leading questions or showing the suspect crime scene photos.

The science of religion: new open online course taught by Professor Azim Shariff

April 2017

Azim Shariff, assistant professor of psychology and social behavior, is mixing science and religion in a new online course that is open to the public.

To clarify: Shariff is using science to study religion, a methodological approach that for many decades was frowned upon, according to Psychology Today. Religious studies scholars frequently invoked notions such as "the sacred," "the holy" and "the transcendent" to bat away empirical examination.

New summer institute at UCI will help scholars tackle tangled legal web of technology, big data and society

April 2017

What are the legalities of a health insurance company changing a premium based on data streamed from a fitness tracker? When an algorithm in a self-driving car decides which route to take when both are fraught with danger, who can be held liable for damages? And what legal issues come into play when more than half of U.S. stock exchange activity comes from automated trading accounts? As we become increasingly more reliant on technology and big data to make decisions that make our businesses and lives more efficient, the legal implications can be a little tricky.  

“Even where big data and algorithmic processes are purposefully incorporated into legal practices, such as in the proliferating use of ‘risk assessment’ tools in the criminal system, their impacts on fairness and justice remain underexplored in sociolegal scholarship,” says Mona Lynch, criminology, law & society professor and co-director of the Center for Law, Society & Culture.