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Dr Rebecca Helm

Associate Professor in Law

Rebecca is an Associate Professor of Law, and a UK Research and Innovation Fellow. She has a PhD in Law and Developmental Psychology and a Masters in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University, a Masters in Law from Cornell University Law School, and a BA in Jurisprudence from the University of Oxford. She is a qualified solicitor in England and Wales and Attorney in New York state, USA. 

She completed her practical legal training at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP in London, and also practiced law as a supervising attorney for the Cornell law school clinical programs.  She is part of a steering group at the University of Exeter co-ordinating the Immigration Clinic, a non-profit advice service for those in need of immigration advice. She aims to use her own research and the research of others to promote an evidence-based approach to adjudication, and to enhance access to justice. 

Rebecca conducts research using quantitative methodology and behavioral biology to examine and evaluate the operation of legal regulation in practice, and the extent to which legal regulation reflects modern scientific understanding. This has included examining the failure of legal regulation to address psychological and social pressures that can lead innocent defendants to admit guilt, the relationship between the regulation of compensated and uncompensated surrogacy and human rights, and the appropriate treatment of witness testimony in adjudication. She is also interested in the assessment of damages in cases of intangible injury, particularly as a result of neurological trauma, and is conducting work in this area with collaborators from Cornell University.

Her work has been published in both law and social science journals and books, including leading interdisciplinary peer-review journals such as Law and Human Behavior, and Psychology, Public Policy, and the Law. Her co-authored reports on surrogacy have been considered by legislatures in both New York, USA and Delhi, India.  Her work has been funded by UK Research and Innovation, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the American Psychology and Law Society.

2022-2023 Publications: 

Zottoli, T.*, Helm, R. K.*, Edkins, V, and Bixter, M. (Accepted). Developing a Model of Guilty Plea Decision-Making: Fuzzy-Trace Theory, Gist, and Categorical Boundaries. Law and Human Behavior. 

*joint first author. 

Wilson-Kovacs, D., Helm, R. K., Growns, B., and Redfern, L. (Accepted). Digital Evidence in Defence Practice: Prevalence, Challenges, and Expertise. International Journal of Evidence and Proof.

Helm, R. K. (2023). Plea-based Sentence Reductions: Legal Assumptions and Empirical Realities. In J. Roberts and J. Ryberg (Eds.), Sentencing the Self-Convicted: The Ethics of Pleading Guilty. Hart Bloomsbury.

Helm, R. K. (2023). Adaptive Lie Detection and Perceived Prevalence of False Reports in Evaluation of Sexual Offence Allegations. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.

Helm, R. K., and Growns, B. (2023). Predicting and Projecting Memory: Error and Bias in Metacognitive Judgments Underlying Testimony Evaluation. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 28(1) 15-33.

Growns, B., Dunn, J. D., Helm, R. K., Towler, A. and Kukucka, J. (2022). The Low Prevalence Effect in Fingerprint Comparison Amongst Forensic Science Trainees and Novices. PLOS ONE, 17(8) e0272338. 

Helm, R. K. & Growns, B. (2022). Prevalence Estimates as Priors: Juror Characteristics, Perceived Base Rates, and Verdicts in Cases Reliant on Complainant and Defendant Testimony. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 36(4), 891-904.

Helm, R. K. & Millar, M. (2022). Jury Decision-Making in the Criminal Trial. In E. Johnston (Ed.), Challenges in Criminal Justice. Routledge.

Hans, V. P., Reed, K., Reyna, V. F., Garavito, D. & Helm, R. K. (2022). Guiding Jurors' Damage Award Decisions: Experimental Investigations of Approaches Based on Theory and Practice. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 28(2), 188-212.

Helm, R. K., Dehaghani, R., & Newman, D. (2022). Guilty Plea Decisions: Moving Beyond the Autonomy Myth. Modern Law Review, 85(1), 133. 

Helm, R. K. (2022). Cognition and Incentives in Plea Decisions: Categorical Differences in Outcomes as the Tipping Point for Innocent Defendants. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 28(3), 344-355. 

Research supervision

Dr. Helm welcomes approaches from prospective doctoral students in any of her research areas and is happy to discuss research proposals.

She currently supervises three PhD students: David Teague, Suzi Rockey, and Maddy Millar. For more information on her research group, see here:

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