Saturday, September 21, 2019

Forensic Clinicians' Understanding of Bias (MacLean et al., 2019)


Bias, or systematic influences that create errors in judgment, can affect psychological evaluations in ways that lead to erroneous diagnoses and opinions. Although these errors can have especially serious consequences in the criminal justice system, little research has addressed forensic psychologists' awareness of well-known cognitive biases and debiasing strategies. We conducted a national survey with a sample of 120 randomly selected licensed psychologists with forensic interests to examine (a) their familiarity with and understanding of cognitive biases, (b) their self-reported strategies to mitigate bias, and (c) the relation of a and b to psychologists' cognitive reflection abilities. Most psychologists reported familiarity with well-known biases and distinguished these from sham biases and reported using research-identified strategies but not fictional or sham strategies. However, some psychologists reported little familiarity with actual biases, endorsed sham biases as real, failed to recognize effective bias mitigation strategies, and endorsed ineffective bias mitigation strategies. Furthermore, nearly everyone endorsed introspection (a strategy known to be ineffective) as an effective bias mitigation strategy. Cognitive reflection abilities were systematically related to error, such that stronger cognitive reflection was associated with less endorsement of sham biases.

Keywords: bias, forensic evaluation, survey, cognitive reflection