Cognitive Bias in the Interpretation of Forensic Evidence
The criminal justice system relies on experts to administer justice. However, research in psychology demonstrates that the cognitive underpinning of expertise also entails vulnerabilities, such as lack of flexibility, tunnel vision, and bias. This is especially a problem when there are no objective criteria and quantification instruments. Experts in the criminal justice system often work within a variety of contextual influences that can cause 'psychological contamination', for example, knowing extraneous details about the crime, being pressurized by detectives, and being directed to a 'target'. This talk will present cognitive research demonstrating the problem, showing different types of psychological contaminations that affect experts in the criminal justice system. Cognitive psychologists can contribute to the criminal justice system by suggesting ways to minimize the effects of psychological contamination so as to enhance forensic decision making.
References (can be downloaded from www.cci-hq.com):
Dr. Itiel Dror is a cognitive neuroscientist. Interested in how the brain and cognitive system perceives and interprets information, he got a PhD at Harvard University in 1994. Dr Dror's work focuses on the cognitive architecture that underpins expertise. He researches expert performance in the real world, examining medical surgeons, military fighter pilots, frontline police, and forensic analysts. Dr Dror's research provides insights into the inherent trade-offs of being an expert. In the forensic domain he has demonstrated how contextual information can influence the judgments and decision making of experts; he has shown that even fingerprint and DNA experts can reach different conclusions when the same evidence is presented within different extraneous contexts. He has published over 100 research articles, and has been extensively cited in the Scottish Fingerprint Public Inquiry Report and in the American National Academy of Science Report on Forensic Science. He currently is working on a number of major research projects aimed at providing a better understanding of forensic experts and finding ways to make their judgments more reliable. Dr Dror has been working with numerous police forces and agencies to implement cognitive best practices in evaluating forensic evidence. More information is available at www.cci-hq.com.