Dr. Robin Blom
Dr. Robin Blom
<b>Department:</b> School of Journalism and Strategic Communication<br><b>Research Area:</b> Eyewitness misidentification and avoiding misinformation and wrongful convictions.<br>

Department: Journalism

Research Focus: Approximately two to four percent of incarcerated people in the United States have been wrongfully convicted—many of them from underrepresented minority groups. Research has found that eyewitnesses often make mistakes in identifying suspects, in particular when they are from different racial and ethnic groups. To make things worse, the press is usually disseminating those wrong accusations. Whereas journalists ought to bring social injustice to the public’s attention, they often lack sufficient training to alert the public when innocent people are indicted for crimes they did not commit based on eyewitness misidentification. Using virtual reality, eye-tracking, and psychophysiology tools, we will study reasons for eyewitness misidentification and propose recommendations to others (e.g., law enforcement officers, judges, journalists, etc.) to be better equipped to recognize eyewitness misidentification and avoid misinformation and wrongful convictions.

Potential Student Project: This is a list with potential research questions to explore, but I would like to hear your ideas too.

  • Why do eyewitness make mistakes identifying suspects?
  • How can questions with misinformation alter memories of eyewitnesses?
  • To what extent does eyewitness misidentification contribute to structural violence against minority groups?
  • What are newsroom policies for including eyewitness testimonies in news stories?
  • What do journalism students learn about wrongful convictions?

Attributes/skills/background sought in undergraduate: Curiosity (cu·ri·os·i·ty /kyoorēäsdē, noun): A strong desire to know or learn something. Curiosity leads to discoveries. I look forward working with a student who wants to better understand the world around us. For this particular project, I hope you are especially passionate about exploring ways to decrease and eliminate wrongful convictions. All majors are welcome and you don’t need an advanced research or technology background.

Mentoring Plan: You will become an affiliated researcher of the Unified Research Lab (URL), which is a research space with eyetracking, virtual reality, and psychophysiology tools, as well as gaming systems, in which faculty and students study the role of media and technology in society. I am the director of the URL. You will get your own work space in the lab, where you will have access to all available technology for your research project. You will receive training to use the equipment. We will discuss the progress of your project at the beginning of each week and work on the project throughout the week. (My office is in the URL.) You are also welcome (but not obligated) to attend the weekly URL meeting in which faculty and students discuss their research projects to receive feedback. There are also guest speakers and workshops each semester to introduce new research methods and tools.

Contact: 765-285-8737, AJ 285