The faculty will match the REU students accepted into the program according to their skills and interests and invite them to participate in one of four primary and ongoing research areas for which there are currently active research teams at UNL. Students may also choose to supplement their work with one of the other faculty members whose research does not fit one of these areas but is within the psychology and law program. Choose a link below for a summary of each area and the work of all faculty team leaders and some of the supplemental areas available for REU research.

Jurors, Witnesses, and Litigants in Real World Contexts

Dr. Brian Bornstein's research group, which includes doctoral students pursuing the J.D. and MLS and current UNL undergraduates, applies principles from cognitive and social psychology to real-world contexts in the legal system. The bulk of this work concerns juror decision making and eyewitness identification, in both civil and criminal domains. Current civil jury projects address the effect of a plaintiff's own fault (i.e., comparative negligence) on punitive damage awards and the effect of varying instructions on what factors jurors consider when awarding compensation. Prior studies examined how much a plaintiff's injuries should be worth per day of pain and suffering and the perception of corporate defendants. Other projects span civil and criminal trials. A current criminal jury experiment is exploring the impact of graphic evidence (i.e., autopsy photos and explicit testimony about the victim's wounds) on verdicts and penalties. One program studies the impact of different kinds of expert testimony and jurors' perception of their jury service. Eyewitness memory research conducted to date includes a large-scale meta-analysis of the face recognition/eyewitness identification literature and experimental studies of specific topics (e.g., the cross-race effect). Finally, the team conducts research on procedural justice, especially people's perceptions of how the healthcare system can allocate limited resources to increase perceptions of equity.

Students on Dr. Bornstein's research team will participate in creating experimental stimulus materials, such as trial transcripts or staged videotape "crimes." REU fellows, assisting in planning and collecting data in experiments on all of the above topics, will learn about all phases of mock jury and eyewitness memory research, from conceptualizing research questions to writing up and presenting results. We anticipate minority undergraduates, especially, will make valuable contributions to all aspects of the team's research, but chiefly to projects where ethnicity is itself an important moderating variable, such as the cross-race effect in eyewitness memory and people's perceptions of justice.

Psychological Processes that Produce Ethnic/Racial Bias in the Legal System

Dr. Cynthia Willis-Esqueda’s research group includes doctoral students pursuing the J.D. and current UNL undergraduates. The research focuses on racial and ethnic bias in the legal system, including the origins, content, manifestation, and implications of racial and ethnic bias. Dr. Willis-Esqueda’s research has focused on these areas in order to understand racial/ethnic disparity in its entirety within both civil and criminal law. One of the central issues for Dr. Willis-Esqueda’s research involves the identification of psychological processes that determine biases against specific racial/ethnic minorities in the legal system. What are the origins of such biases? How are such biases manifested in today’s legal decisions? What are the implications for such biases in the way the legal system handles disparities? What are the ramifications for racial minority communities when the legal system is discriminatory?  In order to understand current issues of racial and ethnic disparity in the legal system and minority members’ treatment, an historical analysis of law and legal reasoning is crucial. Students engage in readings that outline historical and current legal definitions of and treatment toward specific racial/ethnic minorities. An appreciation of critical race theory and an understanding of law and legal reasoning, as a reflection of and method to maintain racial hierarchies and societal biases, informs the research endeavors.

Dr. Willis-Esqueda places special emphasis on issues facing American indigenous populations. One research area focuses on North American Indians and biases in civil and criminal law. Students in Dr. Willis Esqueda’s research lab have investigated legal and psychological issues in American Indian domestic violence (Tehee & Willis-Esqueda, in press; Willis-Esqueda, 2006), such as jurisdiction and prosecution, cultural definitions, and legal decision making in culpability assignment. The origins and manifestations of discrimination against American Indians in loan processing is another area of research. There is also a history of discrimination against Mexican Americans (Willis-Esqueda, 2007).

Students working with Dr. Willis-Esqueda will participate in a program of research, involving aversive racism against Mexican Americans, compared to European Americans, in legal decision making, and how biases against Mexican American clients can have negative ramifications for perceptions of the credibility and professionalism of defense attorneys, particularly Mexican American defense attorneys. Current projects also include an investigation of the degree to which Mexican American and European American attorneys are aware of such biases, and methods that could eliminate aversive racism against Mexican American defendants.

Clinical Violence Assessment and Juvenile Delinquency

Dr. Mario Scalora director of an active research unit that specializes in studying sexual assault, workplace violence, threats to political figures, juvenile delinquency, and clinician risk assessment decision making. Several of his most recent publications are concerned with sex offender recidivism (Scalora & Garbin, 2003), predicting threatening behavior toward government officials (Scalora, Baumgartner, & Plank, 2003), and workplace violence (Scalora, Washingtion, & Casady, 2003). Concerning sexual offending, he and his colleagues are investigating a range of personality and other risk factors related to sexual recidivism. He also performs treatment outcome research related to the response and subsequent recidivism of juvenile and adult sexual offenders to cognitive-behavioral treatment. Dr. Scalora also collaborates with local, state, and federal law enforcement on threat assessment research assessing predictive risk factors concerning threatening and violent activity toward public officials and institutions. On a related note concerning targeted violence, his research team is also investigating various risk-related issues (e.g., the nature of mental illness, predictive value of precious threatening behavior) concerning multiple samples of workplace violence. Dr. Scalora also maintains an active research interest in juvenile delinquency, currently investigating the impact of treatment programs upon juvenile recidivism as well as the predictors of such treatment response. Dr. Scalora currently supervises graduate students performing clinical service and research within the state's Forensic Mental Health Service. His graduate teaching activity currently includes courses on forensic assessment, personality assessment, and the supervision of clinical practica.

REU students working with Dr. Scalora will have the opportunity to work in a forensic mental health setting, collecting data and learning about actuarial and clinical assessment of risk, sexual recidivism, and violence. Students interested in juvenile competency to stand trial will have the opportunity to become familiar with assessment instruments and the implications of juvenile competence and juvenile violence within the legal arena. Dr. Scalora will serve as an important mentor for REU students interested in applying to clinical psychology programs, particularly those with an emphasis in forensic psychology.

Parental and Family Responsibility in Juvenile Law Effectiveness and Elder Law Issues

Eve Brank, J.D,. Ph.D. studies juvenile and family law issues and the law's attempt to criminalize deficits in family responsibility. In particular, she studies the public support, implementation, and effectiveness of parental responsibility laws -- laws that punish parents when their children commit crime. Dr. Brank also studies elder law issues with a specific focus on the legal requirements of elder care giving.

Students in Dr. Brank's research team have opportunities to do research on state and city laws related to parental responsibility. Every state allows some form of parental responsibility law and city ordinances are becoming more punitive toward parents of delinquent juveniles. We are examining the prevalence of these laws, the implementation difficulties, and their effectiveness. Students working on the parental responsibility projects will gain experiences with legal research, survey methodology, and interview techniques. Students will also have opportunities to work on elder law issues. As the population ages and more people are opting to live with their families rather than in nursing homes, a number of important psychological and legal questions arise. For instance, we are currently examining when and how an adult becomes an elder's caregiver and whether they are aware of the legal requirements. We are also working on projects that examine ageism (bias against older people) and decision making of elders. Students working on the elder projects would gain experiences with legal research and experimental methodology.

Power, Subtle Prejudice, and Policy

Dr. Gervais is an assistant professor in the Psych/Law and Social Psychology areas in the Psychology Department at UNL. Dr. Gervais' research examines power and subtle prejudice. Examining behaviors like the objectifying gaze, flattery, patronization, and interpersonal confrontation, Dr. Gervais has found that the discriminatory acts of powerful people are often more subtle and nuanced than previously thought, but they still have negative consequences for recipients. Dr. Gervais focuses primarily on gender, but also race, class, disability, age, and their intersections. Most of Dr. Gervais' research applies to the work place, but she also examines subtle prejudice in everyday interactions and in relationships. Extending her research to policy and law, Dr. Gervais is now examining whether different types of subtle prejudice are actionable under the law.

Dr. Gervais works with both undergraduate (including REU fellows and UCARE students) and graduate students in her Power and Subtle Prejudice lab. People involved in the lab read and summarize previous research, develop hypotheses and plan studies, create stimulus materials and collect data, and analyze data and present the results -- basically, people get involved in all stages of the research process. Dr. Gervais also strongly values mentoring and will provide research and professional development mentoring for everyone in the lab.

Adolescent Moral Development in Relation to Legal Decision Making

Dr. Gustavo Carlo is a Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His main research interest is in the development and correlations of moral behaviors in children and adolescents. Much of the work of his research team has focused on the role of culture and ethnicity in moral development (e.g., Carlo, Carranza, & Zamboanga, 2002; Carlo, Koller, & Eisenberg, 1998; Carlo, Koller, Eisenberg, Da Silva, & Frohlich, 1996; Carlo, Roesch, Knight, & Koller, 2001; Carlo, Roesch, & Koller, 1999; de Guzman & Carlo, 2004; Zamboanga, Carlo, & Raffaelli, 2004). Dr. Carlo just completed an NSF-funded project (BNS-0132302) examining prosocial moral development in Mexican American families and he is currently co-editing the Handbook on US Latino Psychology (to be published by Sage).  Dr. Carlo will serve as an excellent student resource for those interested in adolescent moral development, as it relates to legal decision making

Clinical Forensics

Dr. Matthew T. Huss is an associate professor at Creighton University and also a graduate of the UNL Law and Psychology and Clinical Psychology training programs.  He is the author of 40 different scholarly publications and a forthcoming textbook on forensic clinical psychology, Forensic Psychology: Research, Practice, and Applications. His primary research interests focus on the prediction of violence (Huss & Zeiss, 2004), domestic violence (Covell, Huss, & Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 2007), psychopathy (Huss & Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 2006), and sex offenders (Baumgartner, Scalora, & Huss, 2002).  In addition he has significant interests in training and education in law and psychology (Huss, in press; Huss & Skovran, in press) and non clinical aspects (Huss, Tomkins, Garbin, Schopp, & Kilian, 2006). Students working with Dr. Huss will have the opportunity to work closely with clinical research in a forensic setting.

Law & Policy Related to Corporate Misconduct

Professor Richard Moberly is an Assistant Professor of Law and the Cline Williams Research at the UNL College of Law.  Professor Moberly studies law and policy related to employee whistleblowers.  He has published law review articles (Moberly, 2006; Moberly, 2007) focusing specifically on the public encouragement of whistleblowers in corporations and analyzing the legal protections for employees who disclose corporate misconduct.  Professor Moberly is an active supervisor of independent research projects for graduate students in law. Professor Moberly will serve as an important advisor for those interested in policy research, as well as those interested in applying to law school.

Use of Scientific/Expert Evidence, Psycholegal Perpectives on Discrimination & Risk Assessments for Future Violent Behaviors & Domestic/Social Violence

Dr. Alan Tomkins is the director of the UNL Public Policy Center but remains an active mentor of undergraduate and graduate students in law and psychology (Ogloff, Tomkins, & Bersoff, 1996). His research interests include the use of scientific/expert evidence in legal contexts, psycholegal perspectives on discrimination (racism, sexism, and anti-semitism) (Tomkins et al., 1996), risk assessments of future violent behaviors (Grisso & Tomkins, 1996), and domestic and social violence (including child maltreatment, witnessing parental violence, woman battering, and sexual assault).

Relations Between Child Development & Public Policy

Dr. Brian Wilcox serves as the director of the University's Center on Children, Families and the Law and is interested in the linkages between child development and public policy, including adolescent sexual behavior, child welfare, and children and the media. An expert in program evaluation, Dr. Wilcox's current research emphases include adolescent sexual behavior, and media policy as it relates to children and families.

Additional faculty that work with law and psychology students include:
  • Faculty Member
  • Dr. John Flowers
  • Dr. Robert Belli
  • Dr. Richard Dienstbier
  • Dr. Debra Hope
  • Dr. David DiLillo
  • Dr. David Hansen
  • Area of Research
  • Implicit Learning & Human Perception
  • Applied Memory Including Eyewitness Memory
  • Stress Tolerance & Emotion
  • Assessment & Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
  • Family Violence & Couple Relations
  • Sexual Abuse, Physical Abuse, Neglect, & Witnessing Domestic Violence

Contact the following for more info about…

REU Program:

Leah Skovran,

Graduate Student Mentor
238 Burnett Hall,
Lincoln, NE 68588-0308


Mandilyn Armour,

Administrative Assistant
238 Burnett Hall,
Lincoln, NE 68588-0308
(402) 472-3234

Psych & Law:

Dr. Richard Wiener,

Professor of Psychology
334 Burnett Hall,
Lincoln, NE 68588-0308
(402) 472-1137