Forensics and Folly

Hej! Welcome back. To my New England readers, I hope you are enjoying the snow! Unfortunately we do not have any here in Stockholm, but hopefully soon!

A Trip to Gothenburg


During the DIS semester, each core course has two separate weeks devoted to traveling. Our first Core Course Week just ended, and it was a blast! My Forensic Psychology class went to Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden (the largest is Stockholm and third is Malmö*). There, we visited a halfway house, a research center at a university and a psychiatric institution where criminals are analyzed for potential mental illnesses.

Gothenburg’s stereotype is that the people move at a slower paced than in Stockholm. They are known for their willingness stop and chat or give directions, whereas, in Stockholm, people are often rushed and less open to talking with strangers. That stereotype aligned with my experience; people were refreshingly friendly. Also, the people living there made sure to let us know that, despite what Stockholmers say, Gothenburg is the better city. There’s nothing like some patriotic competition, but despite the kind people, after just one month I am totally biased for Stockholm.

*A Quick Lesson In Swedish

Wondering what the two dots on top of that “o” are? The Swedish language has three additional vowels: ä, å, and ö! I would attempt to explain them over this blog, but to be honest, I am not yet able to differentiate between those three and the normal “a” and “o.” However, I have a test in Swedish on Thursday, so I better figure it out by then!

Criminality and Mental Illness in Sweden

Sweden has a unique approach to the conviction for those living with mental illnesses. There is no “not guilty by reason of insanity” policy. No matter what the circumstances, a guilty individual is convicted. However, after the conviction, the court sends criminals with questionable mental health to a psychiatric institute for evaluation. There, the convicts are analyzed by a team of experts (a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker, a nurse, and other combinations) who decide whether or not the perpetrator is severely in need of psychiatric care. If so, the perpetrator is sent to a treatment facility instead of prison. If the perpetrator does not show signs of a severe mental illness, he would go to prison (or she, but only 7% of Sweden’s criminals are female). The psychologist that we spoke with reported that substance abuse is the number one condition that they encounter. However, because substance abuse is not legally classified as a severe mental illness, criminals dealing with substance abuse would go to prison. The psychologist we spoke with felt confident that those individuals receive very good treatment for their substance abuse in the Swedish prisons.

At the end of their prison sentence, inmates can choose whether to wear an ankle tracker for probation or live in a halfway house. We spoke with two directors of Gothenburg’s halfway house. Both of them love their jobs and feel strong connections with their clients (they do not refer to them as inmates). The clients must get a job and have to make curfew every night. If they miss curfew without an explanation, they are sent back to prison; there are no second chances there. The same goes for any use of drugs or violence. However, the directors said that clients practically never disobey the rules and that they feel extremely safe in the house.

Finally, we learned a lot about research on lie detection. According to researchers at CLIP, an internationally known research organization from Gothenburg, people, including police, are poor at lie detection. However, interviewers can improve their rates of lie detection by changing their technique. Asking for a recount of the events in reverse order, changing the recall mode (having suspects draw, not verbally, recall the events or the location) and asking for spatial/temporal information are all ways to detect lying; liars usually come in with a specific script, so they do not anticipate these questions or modes of recall. Conversely, truth tellers have no agenda so the questions are less likely to throw them off.

Not Dining, but Dashing

Wondering about the “Folly” in my title? I am referring to how I faired in navigating a new city with very little ability to speak or read the native language. (Disclaimer: Almost everyone here speaks English, so it should not be hard). However, a few friends and I managed to make it complicated. We left our hostel in search of a casual, inexpensive dinner option. We reviewed the menus for at least seven restaurants but concluded that each was a bit too pricey for our liking. Finally, we reached a Chinese restaurant with a reasonable price; the main dishes were 149 Swedish kronor, which is roughly 17 American dollars. We asked the waitress for a table, and she led us into the dining room. The room was dimly lit, decorated with modern furniture, and finished off with well dressed, classy people––so, not exactly the place for distressed college students staying in a youth hostel. As one of my friends asked about the portions, the waitress gave her a funny look. “You guys did see the menu, right? You’re supposed to order five to six dishes, not one!” Needless to say, we missed that small detail. I quickly accepted that I might have to drop $100 on this meal, but my friend Cayla would not let that happen. She asked the waitress if we could have a moment, and within three minutes we were out the door. (A message to my mom who is reading this and feeling ashamed at my manners: we apologized, and I promise that the waitress was even more relieved to see us go as we were to exit that restaurant!). Ultimately we ended up at an Irish sports bar, which was a perfect taste of home!

Thank you for reading! I’ll be back soon! I hope you have a great week full of baked goods and warm drinks :).

FIKA! Hot cocoa and a cinnamon bun

2 thoughts

  1. Hey! I read your post and I was wondering if you can provide the name of the psychiatric institution you guys visted where criminals were analysed as well as the research center. Id like to know about it 🙂


  2. Hi, Medha!

    Thanks so much for reading, and I’m glad you asked. The psychiatric institution in Gothenburg was Rättsmedicinalverket. Their website is: The research unit was “CLIP: Research Unit for Criminal, Legal and Investigative Psychology” and here is their website: Please let me know if you have other questions!


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