From Partners in Crime (Research) to the Lecture Hall

Shaina Herman and Tim Barnum Heading for New Shores

July 01, 2024

After successfully completing the postdoc phase of their academic careers in Germany, criminologists Shaina Herman and Tim Barnum are leaving the Max Planck Institute this summer. The next stage in their careers takes them to Sam Houston State University in Texas, where they are joining the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology as assistant professors in the fall.  Both researchers will continue to maintain ties with Freiburg, however, as they plan to work with the Institute’s Department of Criminology on individual projects as external collaborators in the future.

Shaina and Tim led the research project “360º Virtual Scenario Method” to study the decision-making of would-be offenders. The setting: a night out in a pub. The method: real-life simulation by means of virtual reality (VR) technology. The objective: to investigate the influence of emotions on our decisions to engage in criminal behavior or not. Are people more willing to commit a crime, for instance, when their emotions are piqued or state of mind altered?

Simulated pub scenarios were developed for test purposes. Wearing VR headsets, the test subjects were exposed to different situations in the pub intended to trigger emotional reactions that might lead to vir­tual offending situations. For example, the test participants expe­ri­ence first-hand how a young woman is harassed or how a fight breaks out.

The immersive 360° virtual scenario method helps make the situations as realistic as possible. The criminologists analyzed the reactions of the study participants, namely whether or not they were more likely to resort to violence and commit a crime if charged or even heated emotions were involved.

Go to Editor View