Researchers Expose Troubling Bias In Forensic Psychology

Posted on August 31, 2013

Does your mental health depend on who's paying your psychologist? Clearly not, but a new study has found that psychologists looking at the same evidence will interpret it differently, depending on whom they believed hired them.

Bias in psychologists hired to go to court could have an immense impact on defendants' lives. In many cases, psychological evaluations influence decisions about what sentences people deserve. Was the defendant's crime a one-time thing, punishable by a finite prison sentence, or is she a danger to society who should be locked away forever? Should the defendant go to a rehabilitation program as part of his sentence?

On average, in most measures, the defense-hired experts came to significantly different conclusions than the prosecution-hired ones. This was using surveys that previous studies have shown work well—that is, a bunch of psychologists assessing someone using the surveys will generally come to the same conclusions—when they're not used in court.

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Source material from Popular Science