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Diagnosing Crime and Diagnosing Disease: Bias Reduction Strategies in the Forensic and Clinical Sciences

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 62 Issue: 6 Dated: 2017 Pages: 1534-1541
Date Published
8 pages

Since cognitive effort is an essential part of both forensic and clinical decision-making and errors occur in both fields because the cognitive process is complex and prone to bias, the current study performed a selective review of full-text English language literature on cognitive bias leading to diagnostic and forensic errors.


Earlier work (1970–2000) concentrated on classifying and raising bias awareness. Recently (2000–2016), the emphasis has shifted toward strategies for “debiasing.” While the forensic sciences have focused on the control of misleading contextual cues, clinical debiasing efforts have relied on checklists and hypothetical scenarios. No single generally applicable and effective bias-reduction strategy has emerged so far. Generalized attempts at bias elimination have not been particularly successful. It is time to shift focus to the study of errors within specific domains and how to best communicate uncertainty in order to improve decision making on the part of both the expert and the trier-of-fact. (Publisher Abstract)

Date Published: January 1, 2017