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Jones Research Lab

Picture of Angela Jones

Angela M. Jones, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Texas State University. She joined the faculty in 2016 after serving as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Barnard College, Columbia University. She earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the Graduate Center, CUNY in 2015. Her research interests lie at the intersection of psychology and the legal system. She has explored errors in memory and decision making (e.g., eyewitnesses, jurors) that can lead to wrongful convictions and methods to reduce such errors.

The Jones Research Lab has a number of active research projects currently in progress. Please read below to learn more. If you are a current student and are interested in joining the lab or just learning more about ongoing research, please contact Dr. Jones.

Eyewitness Identification

Student using a virtual reality headset in a lab
Participant wearing head-mounted display to view 360 crime

Eyewitness misidentification is one of the leading contributing factors to wrongful convictions (National Registry of Exonerations, 2019). These wrongful convictions have spurred one of the most prolific areas of applied memory research. Our lab is currently evaluating the use of technology to improve the ecological validity of eyewitness stimuli and the development of lineups. Much of the stimuli used to test eyewitness memories is rather artificial, involving the use of photographs or two-dimensional (2D) videotaped mock crimes to avoid psychologically harming participants (Wells & Penrod, 2011). As a result, the participant witness is not exposed to a stressful situation as would likely occur with a real witness. Advancements in technology, specifically 360-degree immersive environments (IE), provide a unique opportunity to examine eyewitness memory. We are currently testing how this more realistic environment affects eyewitness memory.

Facial recognition is also a rapidly developing technology being employed by various police departments across the country. Such technology can inform the construction of lineups that are later administered to eyewitnesses. Police commonly present a “six pack” to eyewitnesses, which include photos of five known innocent lineup members (called “fillers”) and one suspect. One method for reducing the errors made by eyewitnesses in criminal cases involves constructing lineups that do not unduly bias witnesses towards choosing the suspect. Department of Justice guidelines developed by the Technical Working Group for Eyewitness Evidence (2003) recommend that the suspect should not stand out in a lineup. In eyewitness studies, researchers typically manipulate filler-suspect similarity by having independent judges rate how similar fillers are to the suspect (e.g., Carlson, Gronlund, & Clark, 2008). However, the use of facial recognition software may allow for a more objective lineup construction process because it provides a quantitative measure of similarity for individual faces that can be averaged for whole lineups. Using actual mugshots from the Florida Offender Database, we are currently testing how such technology affects eyewitness lineup decisions, especially when lineups include highly similar fillers (Fitzgerald et al., 2013, 2015).

Pretrial Publicity

Study participants viewing a mock trial
Study participants viewing a mock trial

Pretrial publicity (PTP) encompasses all media coverage of a case occurring prior to trial (Greene & Wade, 1988; Studebaker & Penrod, 1997). Negative-defendant pretrial publicity (PTP) is most common and can threaten a defendant’s right to a fair trial. Jurors exposed to this type of PTP are more likely to find the defendant guilty and view the defendant as less credible compared to those not exposed to PTP (Kerr et al., 1999; Ruva et al., 2007). Voir dire is one type of remedy the courts have proposed to combat the biasing effects of prejudicial PTP. Voir dire is used to assess potential jurors' knowledge of PTP surrounding the case and potential bias against the defendant. The social science research suggests that it is unlikely that potential jurors can adequately assess their own bias (Kerr et al., 1991). However, the state of Washington recently introduced a debiasing video to be presented to jurors just prior to voir dire. This video was designed to help jurors recognize and subsequently reduce their own unconscious biases. We are currently collecting data to evaluate the effectiveness of this video for reducing PTP related biases.

Procedural Justice

Spring 2019 lab members, from left to right, Dr. Jones, Ashley Blinkhorn (masters student), Jewelia Tapp (undergraduate), Courtney Meyers (undergraduate), Alexis Hawley (masters student), and D’Mornaquah Fontenot (undergraduate).
Spring 2019 lab members, from left to right, Dr. Jones, Ashley Blinkhorn (masters student), Jewelia Tapp (undergraduate), Courtney Meyers (undergraduate), Alexis Hawley (masters student), and D’Mornaquah Fontenot (undergraduate).

The psychology of justice has focused largely on perceptions of the fairness of procedures and outcome distributions, respectively called procedural justice (Lind & Tyler, 1988; Thibaut & Walker, 1975) and distributive justice (Adam, 1965). Conflicting views exist regarding the antecedents of procedural and distributive justice. For example, group value theory (Lind & Tyler, 1988) posits that positive treatment by an authority figure is always desirable and will lead to increased perceptions of procedural and distributive justice. In contrast, others suggest that positive treatment (Heuer, Blumenthal, Weinblatt, & Douglass, 1999) or outcomes (Feather, 1992, 1999) is not always desired (see also Lerner, 1980). Instead, fairness is judged on the match between what one deserves and what one gets (i.e., the matching hypothesis; Feather, 1992, 1993a, 1993b, 1999). Fairness judgments may depend on perspective. The actor-observer bias suggests that actors are more likely to attribute outcomes to external causes while observers blame internal causes on the actor (Jones & Nisbett, 1971). These attributional differences are more pronounced when outcomes are negative, where the observer may attribute more responsibility for the outcome to the actor. In the context of a housing court dispute, we are currently testing the matching hypothesis from first and third-person perspectives.

Lab members Courtney Meyers and D’Mornaquah Fontenot presenting research on eyewitnesses and pretrial publicity at the 2019 Undergraduate Research Conference. D’Mornaquah’s poster won Honorable Mention.
Lab members Courtney Meyers and D’Mornaquah Fontenot presenting research on eyewitnesses and pretrial publicity at the 2019 Undergraduate Research Conference. D’Mornaquah’s poster won Honorable Mention.

If you are a current student and are interested in joining the lab or just learning more about ongoing research, please contact Dr. Jones