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Andreea Luciana Urzică: A plea for bias awareness in processing and interpretation of evidence provided by witnesses. Psychology on the stand

DOI: 10.47743/jss-2022-68-4-15

Abstract: Since the U.S. Academy of Science released an extensive report regarding the necessity of strengthening forensic science (2009), a great deal of attention was devoted to finding better ways to analyze and making sense of any gathered as a result of criminal investigations. Whether we have considered the analysis of forensic evidence colected from the crime scene or testimonial evidence, they go through a process that is prone to inherent subjective interpretation and unintentional cognitive errors. This article starts from the premise that the knowledge about science‑based principles in psychology could significantly contribute to the improvement of decision‑making processes and legal practices. In this regard, we choose to formulate a plea in order to present on the one hand some of the cognitive errors that occur in the interpretation of the evidence provided by witnesses and, on the other hand, to indicate three directions of action that could reduce this problem. The three convergent solutions focus on: a) the transfer of methodological know‑how regarding data reliability (from psychology field) on forensic evidence's reliability (in criminal investigation); b) the transfer of knowledge about cognitive biases that could emerge from witness‑investigators interaction, to increase the awareness of these risks; c) transfer of information regarding a series of concrete psychological interventions that could redesign the architecture of an investigation in order to reduce cognitive biases using scientifically validated procedures relatively easy to apply and cost‑effective.

Keywords: witness testimony, reliability of evidence, scientifically validated procedures, cognitive errors


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