Contextual bias and cross-contamination in the forensic sciences: The corrosive implications for investigations, plea bargains, trials and appeals

Edmond, Gary, Tangen, Jason M., Searston, Rachel A. and Dror, Itiel E. (2014) Contextual bias and cross-contamination in the forensic sciences: The corrosive implications for investigations, plea bargains, trials and appeals. Law, Probability and Risk, 14 1: 1-25. doi:10.1093/lpr/mgu018


Author Edmond, Gary
Tangen, Jason M.
Searston, Rachel A.
Dror, Itiel E.
Title Contextual bias and cross-contamination in the forensic sciences: The corrosive implications for investigations, plea bargains, trials and appeals
Journal name Law, Probability and Risk   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1470-8396
1470-840X
Publication date 2014-01-01
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1093/lpr/mgu018
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 14
Issue 1
Start page 1
End page 25
Total pages 25
Place of publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Oxford University Press
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Most forensic science evidence is produced in conditions that do not protect the analyst from contextual information about the case that could sway their decision-making. This article explores how these largely unrecognized threats raise real problems for the criminal justice system; from the collection and interpretation of traces to the presentation and evaluation of evidence at trial and on appeal. It explains how forensic analysts are routinely exposed to information (e.g. about the investigation or the main suspect) that is not related to their analysis, and not documented in their reports, but has been demonstrated to affect the interpretation of forensic science evidence. It also explains that not only are forensic analysts gratuitously exposed to such ‘domain-irrelevant’ information, but their own cognitively contaminated interpretations and opinions are then often unnecessarily revealed to other witnesses—both lay and expert. This back and forth can create a ‘biasing snowball effect’ where evidence is (increasingly) cross-contaminated, though represented, at trial and on appeal, as separate lines of evidence independently corroborating one another. The article explains that lawyers and courts have not recognized how contextual bias and cognitive processes may distort and undermine the probative value of expert evidence. It suggests that courts should attend to the possibility of contextual bias and cross-contamination when admitting and evaluating incriminating expert evidence.
Keyword Expert evidence
Context effects
Confirmation bias
Cognitive science
Human factors
Expectancy effects
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
 
Versions
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 7 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 8 times in Scopus Article | Citations
Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Thu, 30 Oct 2014, 02:22:41 EST by Dr Jason Tangen on behalf of School of Psychology