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Commentary on Curley et al. Assessing cognitive bias in forensic decisions: a review and outlook

Journal: Journal of Forensic Sciences
Published: 2020
Primary Author: William C. Thompson
Research Area: Latent Print

In their recent critical review titled “Assessing Cognitive Bias in Forensic Decisions: A Review and Outlook,” Curley et al. (1) offer a confused and incomplete discussion of “task relevance” in forensic science. Their failure to adopt a clear and appropriate definition of “task relevance” undermines the central conclusion of their article—the assertion that it is not necessarily an error for forensic scientists to rely on task-irrelevant information and that “task-irrelevant contextual information may sometimes aid forensic decision makers.” This conceptual flaw in the article becomes clear when we define “task relevance” appropriately, in the manner it was defined by the U.S. National Commission on Forensic Science (2). The Commission’s definition provides a bright-line standard for distinguishing contextual information that is helpful and should be considered from contextual information that is unhelpful and should not be considered. Once that matter is clarified, it becomes possible to discuss intelligently whether steps should be taken to minimize examiners’ exposure to task irrelevant information in order to reduce the potential for contextual bias

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