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Validity, Inter-Rater Reliability, and Measures of Adaptive Behavior: Concerns Regarding the Probative Versus Prejudicial Value

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The question as to whether the assessment of adaptive behavior (AB) for evaluations of intellectual disability (ID) in the community meet the level of rigor necessary for admissibility in legal cases is addressed. Adaptive behavior measures have made their way

The question as to whether the assessment of adaptive behavior (AB) for evaluations of intellectual disability (ID) in the community meet the level of rigor necessary for admissibility in legal cases is addressed. Adaptive behavior measures have made their way into the forensic domain where scientific evidence is put under great scrutiny. Assessment of ID in capital murder proceedings has garnished a lot of attention, but assessments of ID in adult populations also occur with some frequency in the context of other criminal proceedings (e.g., competence to stand trial; competence to waive Miranda rights), as well as eligibility for social security disability, social security insurance, Medicaid/Medicare, government housing, and post-secondary transition services. As will be demonstrated, markedly disparate findings between raters can occur on measures of AB even when the assessment is conducted in accordance with standard procedures (i.e., the person was assessed in a community setting, in real time, with multiple appropriate raters, when the person was younger than 18 years of age) and similar disparities can be found in the context of the unorthodox and untested retrospective assessment used in capital proceedings. With full recognition that some level of disparity is to be expected, the level of disparity that can arise when these measures are administered retrospectively calls into question the validity of the results and consequently, their probative value.

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2018-02-01

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Moral Disengagement in Legal Judgments

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We investigated the role of moral disengagement in a legally‐relevant judgment in this theoretically‐driven empirical analysis. Moral disengagement is a social‐cognitive phenomenon through which people reason their way toward harming others, presenting a useful framework for investigating legal judgments that

We investigated the role of moral disengagement in a legally‐relevant judgment in this theoretically‐driven empirical analysis. Moral disengagement is a social‐cognitive phenomenon through which people reason their way toward harming others, presenting a useful framework for investigating legal judgments that often result in harming individuals for the good of society. We tested the role of moral disengagement in forensic psychologists’ willingness to conduct the most ethically questionable clinical task in the criminal justice system: competence for execution evaluations. Our hypothesis that moral disengagement would function as mediator of participants’ existing attitudes and their judgments—a theoretical “bridge” between attitudes and judgments—was robustly supported. Moral disengagement was key to understanding how psychologists decide to engage in competence for execution evaluations. We describe in detail the moral disengagement measure we used, including exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses across two separate samples. The four‐factor measure accounted for a total of 52.18 percent of the variance in the sample of forensic psychologists, and the model adequately fit the data in the entirely different sample of jurors in a confirmatory factor analysis. Despite the psychometric strengths of this moral disengagement measure, we describe the pros and cons of existing measures of moral disengagement. We outline future directions for moral disengagement research, especially in legal contexts.

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2017-11-07

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The “Dark Side” of Institutional Trust

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The majority of trust research has focused on the benefits trust can have for individual actors, institutions, and organizations. This “optimistic bias” is particularly evident in work focused on institutional trust, where concepts such as procedural justice, shared values, and

The majority of trust research has focused on the benefits trust can have for individual actors, institutions, and organizations. This “optimistic bias” is particularly evident in work focused on institutional trust, where concepts such as procedural justice, shared values, and moral responsibility have gained prominence. But trust in institutions may not be exclusively good. We reveal implications for the “dark side” of institutional trust by reviewing relevant theories and empirical research that can contribute to a more holistic understanding. We frame our discussion by suggesting there may be a “Goldilocks principle” of institutional trust, where trust that is too low (typically the focus) or too high (not usually considered by trust researchers) may be problematic. The chapter focuses on the issue of too-high trust and processes through which such too-high trust might emerge. Specifically, excessive trust might result from external, internal, and intersecting external-internal processes. External processes refer to the actions institutions take that affect public trust, while internal processes refer to intrapersonal factors affecting a trustor’s level of trust. We describe how the beneficial psychological and behavioral outcomes of trust can be mitigated or circumvented through these processes and highlight the implications of a “darkest” side of trust when they intersect. We draw upon research on organizations and legal, governmental, and political systems to demonstrate the dark side of trust in different contexts. The conclusion outlines directions for future research and encourages researchers to consider the ethical nuances of studying how to increase institutional trust.

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Date Created
2016

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The Cognitive and Social Psychological Bases of Bias in Forensic Mental Health Judgments

Description

This chapter integrates from cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and social psychology the basic science of bias in human judgment as relevant to judgments and decisions by forensic mental health professionals. Forensic mental health professionals help courts make decisions in cases

This chapter integrates from cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and social psychology the basic science of bias in human judgment as relevant to judgments and decisions by forensic mental health professionals. Forensic mental health professionals help courts make decisions in cases when some question of psychology pertains to the legal issue, such as in insanity cases, child custody hearings, and psychological injuries in civil suits. The legal system itself and many people involved, such as jurors, assume mental health experts are “objective” and untainted by bias. However, basic psychological science from several branches of the discipline suggest the law’s assumption about experts’ protection from bias is wrong. Indeed, several empirical studies now show clear evidence of (unintentional) bias in forensic mental health experts’ judgments and decisions. In this chapter, we explain the science of how and why human judgments are susceptible to various kinds of bias. We describe dual-process theories from cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and social psychology that can help explain these biases. We review the empirical evidence to date specifically about cognitive and social psychological biases in forensic mental health judgments, weaving in related literature about biases in other types of expert judgment, with hypotheses about how forensic experts are likely affected by these biases. We close with a discussion of directions for future research and practice.

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Date Created
2017-04-30

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The Propriety of Preemptory Challenges for Perceived Personality Traits

Description

There is substantial controversy over the extent to which social science should be used in jury selection. Underlying the debate are two competing interests in the make-up of a jury: a privilege to strike prospective jurors on subjective grounds, which

There is substantial controversy over the extent to which social science should be used in jury selection. Underlying the debate are two competing interests in the make-up of a jury: a privilege to strike prospective jurors on subjective grounds, which supports scientific jury selection, and a collective interest of citizens to be free from exclusion from jury service, which does not. While the incommensurability of the interests precludes resolution of the controversy in the abstract, specific solutions are possible. Using the example of selection of jurors based upon their respective levels of extraversion, we describe how the competing interests frequently do not apply to concrete cases. In the subsequent analysis, we show that, rhetoric notwithstanding, a normative preference for adhering to tradition and institutional inertia are the primary instrumental considerations for determining whether peremptory challenges based upon personality traits like extraversion ought to be allowed. Consistent with this analysis, we conclude that the practice of striking jurors based upon estimates of such personality traits is appropriate.

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Date Created
2013

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The Cognitive Underpinnings of Bias in Forensic Mental Health Evaluations.

Description

We integrate multiple domains of psychological science to identify, better understand, and manage the effects of subtle but powerful biases in forensic mental health assessment. This topic is ripe for discussion, as research evidence that challenges our objectivity and credibility

We integrate multiple domains of psychological science to identify, better understand, and manage the effects of subtle but powerful biases in forensic mental health assessment. This topic is ripe for discussion, as research evidence that challenges our objectivity and credibility garners increased attention both within and outside of psychology. We begin by defining bias and provide rich examples from the judgment and decision making literature as they might apply to forensic assessment tasks. The cognitive biases we review can help us explain common problems in interpretation and judgment that confront forensic examiners. This leads us to ask (and attempt to answer) how we might use what we know about bias in forensic clinicians’ judgment to reduce its negative effects.

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Date Created
2014-05

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Assessment Practices and Expert Judgment Methods in Forensic Psychology and Psychiatry: An International Snapshot

Description

We conducted an international survey in which forensic examiners who were members of professional associations described their two most recent forensic evaluations (N=434 experts, 868 cases), focusing on the use of structured assessment tools to aid expert judgment. This study

We conducted an international survey in which forensic examiners who were members of professional associations described their two most recent forensic evaluations (N=434 experts, 868 cases), focusing on the use of structured assessment tools to aid expert judgment. This study describes:

1. The relative frequency of various forensic referrals.
2. What tools are used globally.
3. Frequency and type of structured tools used.
4. Practitioners’ rationales for using/not using tools.

We provide general descriptive information for various referrals. We found most evaluations used tools (74.2%) and used several (on average 4). We noted the extreme variety in tools used (286 different tools). We discuss the implications of these findings and provide suggestions for improving the reliability and validity of forensic expert judgment methods. We conclude with a call for an assessment approach that seeks structured decision methods to advance greater efficiency in the use and integration of case-relevant information.

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Date Created
2014-09-25

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Are Forensic Experts Already Biased Before Adversarial Legal Parties Hire Them?

Description

This survey of 206 forensic psychologists tested the “filtering” effects of preexisting expert attitudes in adversarial proceedings. Results confirmed the hypothesis that evaluator attitudes toward capital punishment influence willingness to accept capital case referrals from particular adversarial parties. Stronger death

This survey of 206 forensic psychologists tested the “filtering” effects of preexisting expert attitudes in adversarial proceedings. Results confirmed the hypothesis that evaluator attitudes toward capital punishment influence willingness to accept capital case referrals from particular adversarial parties. Stronger death penalty opposition was associated with higher willingness to conduct evaluations for the defense and higher likelihood of rejecting referrals from all sources Conversely, stronger support was associated with higher willingness to be involved in capital cases generally, regardless of referral source. The findings raise the specter of skewed evaluator involvement in capital evaluations, where evaluators willing to do capital casework may have stronger capital punishment support than evaluators who opt out, and evaluators with strong opposition may work selectively for the defense. The results may provide a partial explanation for the “allegiance effect” in adversarial legal settings such that preexisting attitudes may contribute to partisan participation through a self-selection process.

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Date Created
2016-04-28