Failing to tell friend from foe: A comment on Wijn et al. (2017)

Ewout H. Meijer*, Bruno Verschuere, Harald Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Behavioural observation programmes are becoming increasingly popular at transportation hubs, sporting events, and other large crowd gatherings. Premise of these programmes is that malicious intention can be accurately deduced from observable behaviour. In a recent article published in this journal, Wijn etal. (2017, Legal and Criminological Psychology, 22, 378-399.) conclude that environmental cues improve the correct detection of participants with malicious intent. This conclusion can and will be interpreted as support for behavioural observation programmes. In this comment, we argue that Wijn and colleagues draw a fundamentally wrong conclusion from their data. What their data show is that malicious intentions could not be detected in any of the conditions. Their findings can therefore not be conceptualized as evidence for behavioural observation programmes. Rather, they add to the growing critique voiced towards such programmes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-4
Number of pages3
JournalLegal and Criminological Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • behavioural observation
  • hostile intention


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