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Dr Graham Wagstaff
Reader in Psychology

tel:+ 44 151 794 2949


Graham Wagstaff graduated in Psychology with 1st Class Honours from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1970, and obtained his PhD from the same University in 1975. He has lectured in Psychology at the University of Liverpool since 1973 and at present holds the post of Reader in Psychology. He teaches mainly in the areas of social and forensic psychology, but specialises in the topics of hypnosis and justice. He is a founder member of the British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis and sits on the editorial boards of two academic hypnosis journals.

In addition to his academic work, he advises the police and other legal experts on various issues, including hypnosis and interviewing, and has appeared as an expert witness in the High Court. He has also appeared on national and international radio and television on numerous occasions with regard to his research.

Research interests and current projects

i) The psychology of hypnosis
For over 20 years he has been attempting to link hypnotic phenomena with normal psychological processes drawn, in particular, from social and cognitive psychology. His theoretical standpoint is that hypnotic phenomena are most readily understood in terms of familiar psychological concepts such as compliance, conformity, attitudes, beliefs, roles, expectations, attention, and imagination. He has been concerned most especially with the extent to which hypnotic phenomena are manifestations of behavioural compliance, and the experimental evaluation of claims that hypnosis may be a useful aid to eyewitness memory in forensic investigations. With respect to the former, his research suggests that behavioural compliance is an integral feature of phenomena such as hypnotic amnesia. With respect to the latter, his research indicates that hypnotic procedures do not facilitate memory to a greater extent than other non-hypnotic procedures such as relaxation and guided imagery. He is also interested in hypnotic automatism under hypnosis; his research so far in this area suggests that such automatism does not occur. Present projects in this area include whether hypnotic hallucinations and amnesia can be explained in terms of expectancy effects; further investigation into the use of hypnosis for police interviewing, and the extent to which psychophysiological effects of hypnosis (such as frontal deficits which have been alleged to account for automatism) reflect responses to variations in mundane task demands rather than the existence of some unusual hypnotic 'state'.

His work on hypnosis has a number of practical implications for the evaluation of hypnotic procedures in both forensic and clinical contexts, and relates directly to questions such as, are claims of hypnotic amnesia and hypernmesia valid, is stage hypnosis dangerous, and is uncoerced rape possible under hypnosis?

ii) The psychology of justice
Since 1980 Wagstaff has also been investigating the role of psychological processes in conceptions of social and criminal justice. This has led to the development of a theory entitled 'Equity as Desert'. Equity as Desert is an integration of the Pythagorean and Aristotelian mathematical principle of 'geometrical proportion', the principle of psychological equity, and the traditional religious and philosophical notions of desert. He is testing the proposal that the principle of 'Equity as Desert' is a, if not the most, fundamental psychological construct in the idea of justice, and that other principles of justice such as rights, equality, need, and just punishment, can readily be incorporated within this single principle. The approach to justice he has developed generates a large number of predictions, particularly if regarded from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. A number of these have been tested in studies by postgraduate and undergraduate students, including a cross-cultural study on British and Kuwaiti subjects.

iii) Forensic psychology
Wagstaff has a range of other interests in the general area of forensic psychology, including witness suggestibility, false memories, eyewitness confidence and accuracy relationships, and the effects of memory facilitation techniques on eyewitness testimony, and psychology in the courtroom.

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