Carla L. MacLean, Lynn Smith & Itiel E. Dror, “Experts on Trial: Unearthing Bias in Scientific Evidence”

Over many centuries, courts have developed evidentiary and procedural rules that are aimed at preventing unreliable expert evidence from entering court proceedings. These systems act as gatekeepers and do well in some ways, but less well in other ways. Specifically, the courts should attempt to eliminate or correct for possible bias that is predominantly intentional. However, the courts have not, to date, developed robust ways to identify and counteract experts’ biases caused by factors that unconsciously affect the quality of their evidence. The current paper reviews the role of the expert for the court, as well as the nature of human cognition and information processing. We demonstrate that the judgments of highly trained, scientific, experts can be biased by a host of factors which range from the architecture of human cognition to features of the expert’s environment. We then provide a three-step process for revealing bias in expert evidence, as well as ways to minimize such biases.

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