Experimental Social Psychologist

Melissa Russano

Melissa Russano, Professor

Major:  Criminal Justice
Faculty

Ever since Dr. Melissa Russano came to Roger Williams University in 2004, she’s been sharing her extensive expertise in the field of interrogation techniques with her students. From bringing examples of cases she’s worked into the classroom to inviting students to work with her on research projects, Russano is consistently engaging her students in the real-world.

“This is an applied field, and I conduct research that is very real-world oriented. What I try to do is bring my experiences into the classroom as much as I can and use those as examples because that usually is what best catches students’ attention.”

In recent years, Russano has become a leading expert in the field. She's been quoted in articles by Business Insider, Newsweek and Bloomberg and was featured in Rhode Island’s East Side Monthly.

Russano works with law enforcement and the intelligence community to understand the best techniques to elicit reliable information from witnesses, suspects and sources. For example, in February of 2017, Russano participated in a program to train local police departments on evidence-based interviewing and interrogation techniques. Russano, along with her research lab comprised of graduate and undergraduate students, is now assessing the effectiveness of that training and the science-based techniques in real-world cases. This project has allowed Russano’s students to gain real-world experience and help impact local law enforcement.

Russano’s research has been funded by the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), an interagency government organization under the Department of Justice since 2010, and she sometimes acts as a consultant and expert witness in criminal and civil cases involving potential false confessions.

In her role as a professor, Russano teaches a variety of courses ranging from general psychology and law courses to more specialized ones on witnesses, suspects and investigative interviewing. Russano says she looks to bring outside research into the classroom all the time, whether through projects like the ones funded by HIG or by using her own consulting cases as inspiration.

Russano’s legal psychology research lab includes students working on Russano’s ongoing projects as well as students who conduct theses or other independent projects. If you are interested in conducting or working on interviewing or interrogation research, you can email Dr. Russano directly.