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Press Release

Human Factors/Cognitive Bias in Forensic Science Takes Center Stage at February 2015 AAFS Meeting in Orlando

AAFS Fellow and BFDE Diplomate Andrew Sulner organized, moderated and participated in the highly acclaimed Human Factors in Forensic Science Plenary Session kicking off the 67th annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) meeting held in Orlando, Florida during the third week of February. A full-day workshop on Cognitive Bias Issues in Forensics, co-chaired by Mr. Sulner and Innocence Project co-Director Barry Scheck, was presented a day earlier.

Apr. 29, 2015 / PRZen / ORLANDO, Fla. -- Titled “Human Factors in Forensic Science: Why Cognitive Bias Can Lead to Flawed Expert Opinions and Testimony, How Its Influence Can Be Minimized, and What Challenges Testifying Experts and Judges Can Expect to Face,” the February 18, 2015 AAFS Plenary Session presented a panel of distinguished psychologists, attorneys, and forensic scientists who discussed how cognitive bias can adversely impact evaluations of evidence and decision-making in all forensic disciplines. After welcoming remarks by AAFS President Dan Martell, Dan Simon discussed cognitive and motivational causes of investigative error. William C. Thompson continued this line of thought and reviewed the extensive body of scientific research and literature demonstrating why good intentions and willpower alone cannot overcome contextual bias, which was strikingly demonstrated in Saul Kassin’s ensuing presentation about false confessions and how they can corrupt perceptions and judgments on the part of lay witness and forensic scientists. Andrew Sulner, a third generation board certified forensic document examiner and immediate past Chair of the Academy’s Jurisprudence Section, next discussed why the interests of justice in both civil and criminal cases would best be served if all forensic practitioners, regardless of who hires them, would embrace and implement bias control measures in an effort to improve the reliability and accuracy of their findings and testimony. Mr. Sulner's presentation, "Why Forensic Scientists Should Embrace the Concept of Bias Control," can be viewed in it's entirety by clicking HERE.

The last two presenters, Barry Scheck and forensic pathologist Andrew M. Baker, agreed upon the need for all medical examiners to be independent of any law enforcement agency or interest, but shared different perspectives as to when and what type of historical or background information concerning a decedent should be disclosed to medical examiners investigating the cause and the time and manner of death.

YouTube videos of the entire AAFS 2015 Plenary Session, which reportedly attracted the largest audience in recent Academy history, can be viewed online at http://www.aafs.org/resources/videos.

On February 17, Andrew Sulner and Barry Scheck presented a full-day workshop on Cognitive Bias that attracted over 100 paid attendees for the second year in a row. The workshop, entitled “Cognitive Bias Issues in the Forensic Analysis of Pattern and Impression Evidence and in Medico-legal Evaluations,” comprised a multidisciplinary faculty of distinguished professionals drawn from the fields of psychology, law, medicine, and forensic science. Their presentations discussed classic psychological research studies and used real-life case histories to demonstrate the effects of bias upon interpretations of pattern and impression evidence and upon medico-legal evaluations and assessments, especially in Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma (SBS/AHT) cases. All attendees left the workshop with a clearer understanding of how bias can improperly sway the perceptual and cognitive judgments of forensic examiners and produce faulty conclusions and wrongful convictions, even in the absence of malicious intent. The workshop’s agenda and a synopsis of each presentation can be viewed online at http://bfde.org.

Contact
info2@bfde.org

Source: Board of Forensic Document Examiners (BFDE)

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