Skip to content

How Cross-Examination on Subjectivity and Bias Affects Jurors’ Evaluations of Forensic Science Evidence

Journal: Journal of Forensic Sciences
Published: 2019
Primary Author: William C. Thompson
Secondary Authors: Nicholas Scurich

Contextual bias has been widely discussed as a possible problem in forensic science. The trial simulation experiment reported here examined reactions of jurors at a county courthouse to cross‐examination and arguments about contextual bias in a hypothetical case. We varied whether the key prosecution witness (a forensic odontologist) was cross‐examined about the subjectivity of his interpretations and about his exposure to potentially biasing task‐irrelevant information. Jurors found the expert less credible and were less likely to convict when the expert admitted that his interpretation rested on subjective judgment, and when he admitted having been exposed to potentially biasing task‐irrelevant contextual information (relative to when these issues were not raised by the lawyers). The findings suggest, however, that forensic scientists can immunize themselves against such challenges and maximize the weight jurors give their evidence by adopting context management procedures that blind them to task‐irrelevant information.

Related Resources

How Can a Forensic Result Be a ‘Decision’? A Critical Analysis of Ongoing Reforms of Forensic Reporting Formats for Federal Examiners

How Can a Forensic Result Be a ‘Decision’? A Critical Analysis of Ongoing Reforms of Forensic Reporting Formats for Federal Examiners

The decade since the publication of the 2009 National Research Council report on forensic science has seen the increasing use of a new word to describe forensic results. What were…
Psychometric Analysis of Forensic Examiner Behavior

Psychometric Analysis of Forensic Examiner Behavior

Forensic science often involves the comparison of crime-scene evidence to a known-source sample to determine if the evidence and the reference sample came from the same source. Even as forensic…
Implementation of a Blind Quality Control Program in a Forensic Laboratory

Implementation of a Blind Quality Control Program in a Forensic Laboratory

A blind quality control (QC) program was successfully developed and implemented in the Toxicology, Seized Drugs, Firearms, Latent Prints (Processing and Comparison), Forensic Biology, and Multimedia (Digital and Audio/Video) sections…
CSAFE 2020 All Hands Meeting

CSAFE 2020 All Hands Meeting

The 2020 All Hands Meeting was held May 12 and 13, 2020 and served as the closing to the last 5 years of CSAFE research and focused on kicking off…
Do you have 44.03 seconds?

44.3 Seconds. That is the average amount of time it takes for a visitor to provide site feedback.
Test it yourself by taking the survey.


A scientist/researcherA member of the forensic science communityA journalist/publicationA studentOther. Please indicate.


Learn more about CSAFE overall.Discover research CSAFE is undertaking.Explore collaboration opportunities.Find tools and education opportunities.Other. Please indicate.


YesNo